Salt Marsh Sediment Biogeochemical Response to the BP Deepwater Horizon blowout (Skiff Island, LA, and Cat Island, Marsh Point and Saltpan Island, MS)
Guthrie, Calista Lee.
AdvisorMcNeal, Karen S.
The impact of the Deepwater Horizon blowout on coastal wetlands can be understood through investigating carbon loading and microbial activity in salt marsh sediments. Carbon influx causes pore water sulfide to increase in wetland sediment, making it toxic and inhospitable to marsh vegetation. High sulfide levels due to increased microbial activity can lead to plant browning and mortality. Preliminary analyses at Marsh Point, Mississippi indicated that sulfate reducing bacteria are more active in contaminated marsh, producing sulfide concentrations 100x higher than in noncontaminated marsh. Sediment electrode profiles, hydrocarbon contamination, and microbial community profiles were measured at three additional locations to capture the spatial sedimentary geochemical processes impacting salt marsh dieback. Findings indicate that response to contamination is variable due to physical and biogeochemical processes specific to each marsh. Temporal evaluation indicates that there is a lag in maximum response to contamination due to seasonal effects on microbial activity.