A mesocosm assessment of the effect of bioturbation by the ghost shrimp Lepidophthalmus louisianensis on the fate of petroleum hydrocarbons in the intertidal zone.

Research paper by Paul L PL Klerks, Alex A Kascak, Alfy M AM Cazan, Marco E ME Franco, Febee R FR Louka

Indexed on: 22 Dec '19Published on: 21 Dec '19Published in: Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry


To fully assess the long-term impacts of oil spills like the 2010 Deepwater Horizon incident in the northern Gulf of Mexico (GMx), the potential for organisms other than microbes to affect the fate and distribution of the oil may have to be considered. This influence could be substantial for abundant bioturbating benthic animals like the ghost shrimp Lepidophthalmus louisianensis. An assessment of the influence of these ghost shrimp on petroleum hydrocarbons was conducted in laboratory micro- and mesocosms containing coastal GMx sediment, seawater, and oil or the polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) pyrene. In an experiment with pyrene added to the water column, the ghost shrimp presence lowered water-column pyrene concentrations. In an experiment with oil added to the sediment surface, the ghost shrimp presence decreased PAH concentrations in the sediment surface layer but increased these in the water column and subsurface sediment. A companion study and a mass-balance analysis indicated a net loss of PAHs through an enhancement of microbial degradation. In an experiment in which oil was added as a narrow subsurface layer in the sediment, the ghost shrimp presence appeared to broaden the oil's depth distribution. Taken together, these results demonstrate that ghost shrimp can significantly influence the biodegradation and distribution of spilled oil in coastal ecosystems. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.