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Field assessment of the impacts of Deepwater Horizon oiling on coastal marsh vegetation of Mississippi and Alabama

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The Deepwater Horizon (DWH) incident, which occurred in April 2010, resulted in significant oiling of coastal habitats throughout the Northern Gulf of Mexico. Although the most substantial oiling of coastal salt marshes occurred in Louisiana, oiling of salt marshes in Mississippi and Alabama was documented as well. A field study conducted in Mississippi and Alabama salt marshes as a component of the DWH Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) determined that greater than 10% vertical oiling of plant tissues reduced live vegetation cover and aboveground biomass (live standing crop) relative to reference sites in this region through fall of 2012. This reduction of live vegetation cover and aboveground biomass appears to have largely resulted from diminished health and vigor of Juncus roemerianus, a key salt marsh species in Mississippi and Alabama. Fewer significant reductions in live vegetation cover and aboveground biomass were detected by the fall 2013 sampling, suggesting that vegetation in oiled salt marshes in this region may have begun to recover. This is corroborated by low levels of DWH oil contamination in these salt marsh soils. However, these findings should be interpreted in the context of the restricted sampling intensity of the present study. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved

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