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 as benthic microalgae, while a suite of small invertebrates -- amphipods, copepods, nematodes, snails, worms, and others -- swim, hop, and crawl among the grass blades or burrow in the underlying root zone.
Team - Organisms - Abundance - Biomass - Areas
The team studied these organisms by measuring their abundance and biomass in heavily oiled, moderately oiled, and oil-free areas of Louisiana's Barataria Bay, using both surface plots and shallow cores. Sampling took place at roughly 6-month intervals between 2011 and 2016.
The researchers' early sampling showed that nearly all the plants in heavily oiled...
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