Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Microbial Communities Changed After Deepwater Horizon Spill

11.06.2012
Communities of microbial organisms -- species such as nematodes, protists and fungi -- on beaches along the Gulf of Mexico changed significantly following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in April 2010, research from the University of New Hampshire’s Hubbard Center for Genome Studies (HCGS) and partners found.

The findings, which analyzed marine sediments from five Gulf Coast sites prior to and several months following shoreline oiling, are published in the June 6, 2012, issue of the journal PLoS ONE.

The researchers sampled sites around Dauphin Island, Ala., and Grand Isle, La., just after the Deepwater Horizon spill began but before oil reached the shore, then again several months later, in September 2010.

“In that short time period, we saw a drastic change in the microbial community,” says lead author Holly Bik, a postdoctoral researcher at UNH’s HCGS when the research was conducted, now at the Genome Center at the University of California, Davis. “We were shocked at how drastic the change was, pre- and post-spill.”

Bik and senior author W. Kelley Thomas, director of the HCGS, as well as collaborators from Auburn University and the University of Texas, San Antonio, found that the communities of microbial eukaryotes (organisms not visible to the naked eye whose cells contain nuclei) in the sediments shifted dramatically from highly diverse communities dominated by nematodes – “what you would expect on a beach,” says Bik -- to an almost exclusively fungal community.

What’s more, those post-spill fungi seem to have an appetite for oil. “The fungal taxa that were there were previously associated with hydrocarbons,” Bik says, noting that the group of fungi sampled post-spill from the Grand Isle sites are suspected to utilize hydrocarbons and thrive in hostile, polluted conditions that appear to be intolerable for other marine fungi.

The researchers used two parallel methodologies – high-throughput gene sequencing to sort the organisms into “piles” by their DNA, and an under-the-microscope taxonomic approach -- to evaluate the communities pre- and post-spill. In the taxonomic data examining nematodes, researchers found that the post-spill samples were dominated by more predatory and scavenger nematodes as well as juveniles, suggesting.

While nematodes and fungi are hardly charismatic and are unlikely to turn up on the dinner table, these little-understood yet abundant organisms are nonetheless important. “They underpin the entire ecosystem,” Bik says. “If you knock out the base of the food pyramid, you’re not going to have food higher up in the food chain.” Further, they are also important for nutrient cycling and sediment stability.

The researchers’ findings also point to the possibility of lingering but hidden effects of the spill, which is the largest accidental marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry.

“If you turned up at the beach in September and looked around, you would have had no idea there was an oil spill,” Bik says. “Yet our data suggest considerable hidden initial impacts across shallow Gulf sediments that may be ongoing.” Ongoing research and sampling will aim to determine whether fungi are thriving and persisting long-term and whether the shift in communities is an ephemeral, seasonal or a more permanent phenomenon.

The use of high-throughput sequencing approaches to characterize changes in microscopic eukaryote communities is a cutting-edge technique for tracking environmental disturbance. “The development of these genomic tools provides a detailed understanding of the biological consequences of such environmental disasters and is the first step toward mindful approaches for mitigation and remediation of this oil spill and those we will face in the future,” says Thomas, who is the Hubbard Professor of Genomics at UNH.

The paper, “Dramatic shifts in benthic microbial eukaryote communities following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill,” is available to download from PLoS ONE here: http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0038550. In addition to Bik and Thomas, co-authors were Kenneth Halanych from Auburn University and Jyotsna Sharma of University of Texas, San Antonio.

This research, which is ongoing, was funded through the National Science Foundation’s RAPID program for quick-response research on natural human-caused disasters and similar unanticipated events. More information about the grant is available here: http://www.unh.edu/news/cj_nr/2010/sep/bp14oil.cfm

The University of New Hampshire, founded in 1866, is a world-class public research university with the feel of a New England liberal arts college. A land, sea, and space-grant university, UNH is the state's flagship public institution, enrolling 12,200 undergraduate and 2,300 graduate students.

Photographs available to download:

http://unh.edu/news/releases/2012/jun/img/bellair_blvd.JPG
Caption: Belleair Boulevard on Dauphin Island, Ala., in September 2010.
Credit: Holly Bik
http://unh.edu/news/releases/2012/jun/img/nematodes_in_tube.JPG
Caption: Nematodes sampled from Gulf of Mexico beaches several months after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill of 2010.

Credit: Holly Bik

Beth Potier | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.unh.edu

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht International network connects experimental research in European waters
21.03.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Gewässerökologie und Binnenfischerei (IGB)

nachricht World Water Day 2017: It doesn’t Always Have to Be Drinking Water – Using Wastewater as a Resource
17.03.2017 | ISOE - Institut für sozial-ökologische Forschung

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

Im Focus: Researchers Imitate Molecular Crowding in Cells

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Argon is not the 'dope' for metallic hydrogen

24.03.2017 | Materials Sciences

Astronomers find unexpected, dust-obscured star formation in distant galaxy

24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Gravitational wave kicks monster black hole out of galactic core

24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>