A study appearing online Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found the 2010 spill killed off salt marsh plants 15 to 30 feet from the shoreline and this plant die off resulted in a more-than-doubled rate of erosion along the marsh edge and subsequent permanent marsh habitat loss. Vegetation farther from shore was relatively untouched by the incoming oil.
"Louisiana is already losing about a football field worth of wetlands every hour, and that was before the spill," said Brian Silliman, a University of Florida biologist and lead author of the study. "When grasses die from heavy oiling, their roots, that hold the marsh sediment together, also often die. By killing grasses on the marsh shoreline, the spill pushed erosion rates on the marsh edge to more than double what they were before. Because Louisiana was already experiencing significant erosive marsh loss due to the channelization of the Mississippi, this is a big example of how multiple human stressors can have additive effects."
Marshes are the life's blood of coastal Louisiana because they act as critical nurseries for the shrimp, oysters and fish produced in these waters while helping to sequester significant amounts of carbon. They also protect coastlines from flooding and guard estuarine waters from nutrient pollution.
But the marshes have been suffering for decades as a result of the channelization of the Mississippi River, which has starved them from needed sediments to deter erosion.
Then came the oil spill.
Researchers observed minimal oil on the surfaces of grasses located more than 45 feet from the shoreline, indicating that significant amounts of oil did not move into interior marshes.
Instead, the researchers found that the tall grasses along the marsh edge acted as wall-like trap to incoming oil slicks, concentrating oil on the marsh edge. This concentration of oil on the shoreline protected interior marshes from oiling but worsened already extreme erosion on the shoreline. As oiled plants died, their roots that hold tight to the sediment perished as well. Already eroding sediment was now exposed to wave action without the effect of the gripping plant roots.
The result: elevated erosion rates for 1.5 years that averaged more than 10 feet of shoreline loss per year -- double the natural rate for this area.
The encouraging results, Silliman said, included significant declines in the oil concentration on the marsh surface over 1.5 years and that unaffected, healthy marsh plants in the marsh interior quickly grew back into marsh die-off areas that had not yet been lost due to heightened erosion.
When the new marsh plant growth grew into the erosive edge of the marsh, Silliman said, the recolonization of the area by the gripping plant roots shut down the oil-elevated erosion rates and returned them to those seen at marsh sites where oil coverage did not occur.
The researchers also found that polyaromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs, a carcinogenic byproduct of oil, was 100 percent greater at the Barateria Bay testing site than in reference marshes. This finding provides chemical evidence to support their visual observations that marshes in the affected areas were laden with oil while those in reference areas did not receive significant oiling.
By adding Biochar, a charcoal-based substance, to marshlands, Silliman's team is also using new bioremediation tactics to try to break down PAHs into organic material. If this method is successful, he said, it could be used to supplement naturally occurring microbes in the marsh mud that already oxidize the oil carcinogen. The team is soon to publish those findings.
"This is a new idea applied toward cleaning up PAHs," said UF chemistry professor Andrew R. Zimmerman, a co-author on the paper. "It's possible there's a bunch lurking at the bottom of the bay."Writer: Claudia Adrien, firstname.lastname@example.org
Brian Silliman | EurekAlert!
Invasive Insects Cost the World Billions Per Year
04.10.2016 | University of Adelaide
Malaysia's unique freshwater mussels in danger
27.09.2016 | The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus
Ultrafast lasers have introduced new possibilities in engraving ultrafine structures, and scientists are now also investigating how to use them to etch microstructures into thin glass. There are possible applications in analytics (lab on a chip) and especially in electronics and the consumer sector, where great interest has been shown.
This new method was born of a surprising phenomenon: irradiating glass in a particular way with an ultrafast laser has the effect of making the glass up to a...
Terahertz excitation of selected crystal vibrations leads to an effective magnetic field that drives coherent spin motion
Controlling functional properties by light is one of the grand goals in modern condensed matter physics and materials science. A new study now demonstrates how...
Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.
"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...
In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.
A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...
By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.
"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...
14.10.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
12.10.2016 | Event News
26.10.2016 | Physics and Astronomy
26.10.2016 | Earth Sciences
25.10.2016 | Earth Sciences