Author ORCID Identifier

Mcclenachan, Giovanna: 0000-0002-3076-4795

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Publication Date



Oil can have long-term detrimental effects on marsh plant health, both above-and belowground. However, there are few data available that quantify the accelerated rate of erosion that oil may cause to marshes and the trajectory of change. Between November 2010 and August 2012, we collected data on shoreline erosion, soil strength, per cent cover of Spartina alterniflora, and marsh edge overhang at 30 closely spaced low oil and high oil sites in Bay Batiste, Louisiana. Surface oil samples were taken one meter into the marsh in February 2011. All high oiled sites in Bay Batiste were contaminated with Macondo 252 oil (oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, 20 April-15 July 2010). The results suggest that there is a threshold where soil parameters change dramatically with a relatively small increase in oil concentration in the soil. Heavy oiling weakens the soil, creating a deeper undercut of the upper 50 cm of the marsh edge, and causing an accelerated rate of erosion that cascades along the shoreline. Our results demonstrate that it could take at least 2 yr to document the effects heavy oiling has had on the marsh shoreline. The presence of aboveground vegetation alone may not be an appropriate indicator of recovery.

Publication Source (Journal or Book title)

Environmental Research Letters