Title: Resolving Deepwater Horizon Impacts on Highly Variable Ichthyoplankton and Zooplankton Dynamics in the Northern Gulf of Mexico
Funding Agency/Contractor: Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative
Duration: January 2013 - December 2015
Background: The impacts of the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill on marine fish populations of the northern Gulf of Mexico are largely unknown. Of particular concern in the wake of the DWH event was the fate of pelagic fish eggs and larvae that were present in the water column at the time, as these are the most vulnerable life stages.
Variability in the recruitment of marine fishes to adult populations is largely related to the variability encountered in vital rates (e.g., growth) during the larval stages, therefore DWH-related impacts on ichthyoplankton may have profound effects on future recruitment and fishery yields. In order to detangle DWH impacts from the highly variable "background noise" in the marine environment, a time series that covers a wide range of environmental conditions, as well as 'baseline', impact', and 'recovery' periods is critical. Preliminary analysis of plankton samples collected during a long-term (2004-2011) survey has identified changes in both zooplankton and ichthyoplankton assemblage structures off the coast of Alabama during the DWH oil spill.
Objectives: The objectives of this study are to examine larval fish feeding, growth and condition (using established methodologies) and compare these parameters among 'baseline', 'impact', and 'recovery' periods. The specific hypotheses are as follows:
H01: Diets (as determined by gut content analysis) will not differ among larval fishes collected during the May-August time periods before the spill, during the spill, and after the spill.
H02: Growth (as determined by size vs. age relationships) will not differ among larval fishes collected during the May-August time periods before the spill, during the spill, and after the spill.
H03: Condition (as determined by size vs. dry weight relationships) will not differ among larval fishes collected during the May-August time periods before the spill, during the spill, and after the spill.
Presentations from the 2014 Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill and Ecosystem Science Conference
- Neustonic Early Life Stages of Fishes in the Northern Gulf of Mexico During the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill
- Effects of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill on Larval Abundance and Distribution of Ecologically and Commercially Important fishes
- Effects of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill on Diets, Gowth, and Condition of Larval Spanish Mackerel, Scomberomorus maculatus, in the Northern Gulf of Mexico