Five years of Deepwater Horizon oil spill effects on marsh periwinkles Littoraria irrorata

Journal Article (Journal Article)

The Deepwater Horizon spill (2010) was the largest marine oil spill in US waters to date and one of the largest worldwide. To examine effects of the oil spill on an important salt marsh species over time, we conducted a meta-analysis on marsh periwinkles Littoraria irrorata using published and unpublished sources spanning more than 5 yr (2010-2015), including newly available Natural Resources Damage Assessment (NRDA) and Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI) data sets. We tested the hypotheses that the spill decreased mean periwinkle density, reduced mean snail shell length, and changed periwinkle size distribution. Averaged across multiple studies, sites, marsh zones (edge versus interior), and years, our synthesis revealed a negative effect of heavy oiling on periwinkles. Snail densities were reduced by 73% in heavily oiled sites across all study-zone-by-year combinations, including adverse effects for both the oiled marsh edge and oiled marsh interior, with impacts observed over more than 5 yr. Mean periwinkle shell length was somewhat reduced at the oiled marsh edge in a few cases; however, periwinkle size distributions displayed greater relative proportions of smaller adults and sub-adults, and fewer large adults, across all years. Given the spatial and temporal extent of data analyzed, this synthesis provides evidence that the Deepwater Horizon spill suppressed populations of marsh periwinkles in heavily oiled marshes for over 5 yr, and that impacts were ongoing and recovery was incomplete, likely affecting other ecosystem components, including marsh productivity, organic matter and nutrient cycling, marsh-estuarine food webs, and associated predators.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Zengel, S; Weaver, J; Pennings, SC; Silliman, B; Deis, DR; Montague, CL; Rutherford, N; Nixon, Z; Zimmerman, AR

Published Date

  • August 3, 2017

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 576 /

Start / End Page

  • 135 - 144

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0171-8630

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.3354/meps11827

Citation Source

  • Scopus