The result: elevated erosion rates for 1.5 years that averaged more than 10 feet of shoreline loss per year -- double the natural rate for this area.
The encouraging results, Silliman said, included significant declines in the oil concentration on the marsh surface over 1.5 years and that unaffected, healthy marsh plants in the marsh interior quickly grew back into marsh die-off areas that had not yet been lost due to heightened erosion.
When the new marsh plant growth grew into the erosive edge of the marsh, Silliman said, the recolonization of the area by the gripping plant roots shut down the oil-elevated erosion rates and returned them to those seen at marsh sites where oil coverage did not occur.
The researchers also found that polyaromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs, a carcinogenic byproduct of oil, was 100 percent greater at the Barateria Bay testing site than in reference marshes. This finding provides chemical evidence to support their visual observations that marshes in the affected areas were laden with oil while those in reference areas did not receive significant oiling.
By adding Biochar, a charcoal-based substance, to marshlands, Silliman's team is also using new bioremediation tactics to try to break down PAHs into organic material. If this method is successful, he said, it could be used to supplement naturally occurring microbes in the marsh mud that already oxidize the oil carcinogen. The team is soon to publish those findings.
|Contact: Brian Silliman|
University of Florida