Thresholds in marsh resilience to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Published

Journal Article

Ecosystem boundary retreat due to human-induced pressure is a generally observed phenomenon. However, studies that document thresholds beyond which internal resistance mechanisms are overwhelmed are uncommon. Following the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill, field studies from a few sites suggested that oiling of salt marshes could lead to a biogeomorphic feedback where plant death resulted in increased marsh erosion. We tested for spatial generality of and thresholds in this effect across 103 salt marsh sites spanning ~430 kilometers of shoreline in coastal Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi, using data collected as part of the natural resource damage assessment (NRDA). Our analyses revealed a threshold for oil impacts on marsh edge erosion, with higher erosion rates occurring for ~1-2 years after the spill at sites with the highest amounts of plant stem oiling (90-100%). These results provide compelling evidence showing large-scale ecosystem loss following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. More broadly, these findings provide rare empirical evidence identifying a geomorphologic threshold in the resistance of an ecosystem to increasing intensity of human-induced disturbance.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Silliman, BR; Dixon, PM; Wobus, C; He, Q; Daleo, P; Hughes, BB; Rissing, M; Willis, JM; Hester, MW

Published Date

  • September 28, 2016

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 6 /

Start / End Page

  • 32520 -

PubMed ID

  • 27679956

Pubmed Central ID

  • 27679956

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 2045-2322

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 2045-2322

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1038/srep32520

Language

  • eng