Rapid alterations to marine microbiota communities following an oil spill


Gemmell BJ, Bacosa HP, Dickey BO, Gemmell CG, Alqasemi LR, Buskey EJ. Rapid alterations to marine microbiota communities following an oil spill. Ecotoxicology [Internet]. 2018 :1-12.


Field data from the first several days after an oil spill is rare but crucial for our understanding of a spill’s impact on marine microbiota given their short generation times. Field data collected within days of the Texas City “Y” oil spill showed that exposure to crude oil can rapidly imbalance populations of marine microbiota, which leads to the proliferation of more resistant organisms. Vibrionales bacteria were up to 48 times higher than background concentrations at the most impacted sites and populations of the dinoflagellate Prorocentrum texanum increased significantly as well. Laboratory microcosm experiments with a natural plankton community showed that P. texanum grew significantly faster under oiled conditions but monocultures of P. texanum did not. Additional laboratory experiments with natural communities from Tampa Bay, Florida showed similar results although a different species dominated, P. minimum. In both cases, tolerance to the presence of crude oil was enhanced by higher sensitivity of grazers led to a release from grazing pressure and allows Prorocentrum species to dominate after an oil spill. The results suggest careful monitoring for Vibrionales and Prorocentrum during future spills would be beneficial given the potential implications to human health.

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