Document Type


Publication Date



The ribbed mussel, Geukensia granosissima, cycles nutrients, contributes to soil stability, and can be a major component of predator-prey communities in salt marshes. Mussels were exposed to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and salt marshes remain contaminated eight years later. We hypothesized that the oiled mussels had reduced annual growth, altered population size frequency, and perhaps changed valve morphometrics. We sampled 10 marshes near Port Sulphur, LA, to measure the morphometrics of 133 mussels and their age-specific growth rate, and also the marsh oil content and percent vegetative cover. The relationships between valve weight, length and biomass weight were stable as mussels aged. A Year 1 growth decline from 1994 to 2018 is not easily explained by estuarine acidification, flooding, and temperature rise; freshening of estuarine waters is suggested to be a probable causal factor in the declining growth rate. The average valve length and dry biomass per valve declined with oiling in 2010. A multiple regression equation using the percent cover and oil concentration in 2018 described 70% of the variation in valve length. Sites with the highest oiling had few mussels with 14 annual growth bands and more of the younger mussels compared to sites with the lowest oiling. Valve growth in Year 1 declined for four years after the oil spill and was not compensated by higher growth rates in older mussels. Annual growth was below the amount predicted in a regression equation for the five years after the oil spill. Mussel populations may also have been structured by predators that were also responsive to oiling in subtle ways.

Publication Source (Journal or Book title)

Environmental Pollution