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Photos of a heavily oiled saltmarsh in Louisiana's Barataria Bay show recovery of the plant community following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Credit: Dr. Qianxin Lin.
Nine years ago tomorrow—April 20, 2010—crude oil began leaking from the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig into the Gulf of Mexico in what turned out to be the largest marine oil spill in history. A long-term study suggests the oil is still affecting the salt marshes of the Gulf Coast, and reveals the key role that marsh grasses play in the overall recovery of these important coastal wetlands.
Study - Research - Team - Part - Gulf
Conducting the study was a multi-institutional research team funded in part by the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative, a 10-year independent program established through a $500 million financial commitment from BP. The team began sampling soon after the spill was finally contained, and continue their work today. Their most-recent article—in Estuaries and Coasts—reports on the first six and a half years of sampling post-spill.
Lead author on the study is John Fleeger, an emeritus professor at LSU. Co-authors are Rita Riggio, Irving Mendelssohn, Qianxin Lin, and Aixin Hou of LSU; David Johnson of William & Mary's Virginia Institute of Marine Science; Donald Deis of Atkins North America; Kevin Carman of the University of Nevada-Reno; Sean Graham of Nicholls State University; and Scott Zengel of Research Planning, Inc.
Johnson - Assistant - Professor - VIMS - Expert
Johnson, an assistant professor at VIMS and expert in salt marsh invertebrates, says "Our study highlights the crucial role that plants play in the recovery of important links in the Gulf of Mexico's coastal food web." Those links ultimately connect to the fish and shellfish that support the region's economy and culture.
Two plants dominate healthy Gulf Coast salt marshes—the smooth cordgrass Spartina alterniflora and the black needlerush Juncus roemerianus. Also abundant on the marsh surface are single-celled, plant-like organisms that scientists collectively refer to...
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