We investigated impacts of Macondo MC252 oil from the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) spill on the common reed Phragmites australis (Cav.) Trin. ex Steud., a dominant species of the Mississippi River Delta. In greenhouse experiments, we simulated the most common DWH oiling scenarios by applying weathered and emulsified Macondo oil to aboveground shoots at varying degrees of coverage (0-100%) or directly to marsh soil at different dosages (0-16 Lm(-)(2)). P. australis exhibited strong resistance to negative impacts when oil was applied to shoots alone, while reductions in above- and belowground plant growth were apparent when oil was applied to the soil or with repeated shoot-oiling. Although soil-oiling compromised plant function, mortality of P. australis did not occur. Our results demonstrate that P. australis has a high tolerance to weathered and emulsified Macondo oil, and that mode of exposure (aboveground versus belowground) was a primary determinant of impact severity.
Although the concept of self-design is frequently employed in restoration, reestablishment of primary physical drivers does not always result in a restored ecosystem having the desired ecological functions that support system resilience and stability. We investigated the use of a primary environmental driver in coastal salt marshes, sediment availability, as a means of promoting the resilience and stability of submerging deltaic salt marshes, which are rapidly subsiding due to natural and human-induced processes. We conducted a disturbance-recovery experiment across a gradient of sediment slurry addition to assess the roles of sediment elevation and soil physico-chemical characteristics on vegetation resilience and stability in two restored salt marshes of differing age (a 15-year-old site and a 5-year-old site). Salt marshes that received moderate intensities of sediment slurry addition with elevations at the mid to high intertidal zone (2-11 cm above local mean sea level; MSL) were more resilient than natural marshes. The primary regulator of enhanced resilience and stability in the restored marshes was the alleviation of flooding stress observed in the natural, unsubsidized marsh. However, stability reached a sediment addition threshold, at an elevation of 11 cm above MSL, with decreasing stability in marshes above this elevation. Declines in resilience and stability above the sediment addition threshold were principally influenced by relatively dry conditions that resulted from insufficient and infrequent flooding at high elevations. Although the older restored marsh has subsided over time, areas receiving too much sediment still had limited stability 15 years later, emphasizing the importance of applying the appropriate amount of sediment to the marsh. In contrast, treated marshes with elevations 2-11 cm above MSL were still more resilient than the natural marsh 15 years after restoration, illustrating that when performed correctly, sediment slurry addition can be a sustainable restoration technique.
Cattail (Typha domingensis) has been spreading in phosphorus (P) enriched areas of the oligotrophic Florida Everglades at the expense of sawgrass (Cladium mariscus spp. jamaicense). Abundant evidence in the literature explains how the opportunistic features of Typha might lead to a complete dominance in P-enriched areas. Less clear is how Typha can grow and acquire P at extremely low P levels, which prevail in the unimpacted areas of the Everglades.
As the use of in situ burning for oil spill remediation in coastal wetlands accelerates, the capacity of this procedure to restore the ecological structure and function of oil-impacted wetlands becomes increasingly important. Thus, our research focused on evaluating the functional and structural recovery of a coastal marsh in South Louisiana to an in situ burn following a Hurricane Katrina-induced oil spill. Permanent sampling plots were set up to monitor marsh recovery in the oiled and burned areas as well as non-oiled and non-burned (reference) marshes. Plots were monitored for species composition, stem density, above- and belowground productivity, marsh resiliency, soil chemistry, soil residual oil, and organic matter decomposition. The burn removed the majority of the oil from the marsh, and structurally the marsh recovered rapidly. Plant biomass and species composition returned to control levels within 9 months; however, species richness remained somewhat lower in the oiled and burned areas compared to the reference areas. Recovery of ecological function was also rapid following the in situ burn. Aboveground and belowground plant productivity recovered within one growing season, and although decomposition rates were initially higher in the oiled areas, over time they became equivalent to those in reference sites. Also, marsh resiliency, i.e., the rate of recovery from our applied disturbances, was not affected by the in situ burn. We conclude that in situ burning is an effective way to remove oil and allow ecosystem recovery in coastal marshes.
Long-distance dispersal can affect speciation processes in two opposing ways. Dispersal can promote geographic isolation or it can bring together geographically distant and distantly related genotypes, thus counteracting local differentiation. We used the Gulf Coast of North America (GC), a "hot spot" of reed diversity and evolutionary dynamics, as a model system to study the diversification processes within the invasive, cosmopolitan, polyploid grass Phragmites.
We investigated the impacts of the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill on two dominant coastal saltmarsh plants, Spartina alterniflora and Juncus roemerianus, in the northern Gulf of Mexico and the processes controlling differential species-effects and recovery. Seven months after the Macondo MC 252 oil made landfall along the shoreline salt marshes of northern Barataria Bay, Louisiana, concentrations of total petroleum hydrocarbons in the surface 2 cm of heavily oiled marsh soils were as high as 510 mg g(-1). Heavy oiling caused almost complete mortality of both species. However, moderate oiling impacted Spartina less severely than Juncus and, relative to the reference marshes, had no significant effect on Spartina while significantly lowering live aboveground biomass and stem density of Juncus. A greenhouse mesocosm study supported field results and indicated that S. alterniflora was much more tolerant to shoot oil coverage than J. roemerianus. Spartina recovered from as much as 100% oil coverage of shoots in 7 months; however, Juncus recovered to a much lesser extent. Soil-oiling significantly affected both species. Severe impacts of the Macondo oil to coastal marsh vegetation most likely resulted from oil exposure of the shoots and oil contact on/in the marsh soil, as well as repeated oiling events.
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