Effect of Autumn application of oil on Spartina alterniflora in a Texas, USA salt marsh




Webb, J.W.
Alexander, S.K.
Winters, J.K.

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Elsevier Applied Science Publishers


Arabian crude oil, Libyan crude oil, No. 6 fuel oil and No. 2 fuel oil were applied, in Nov. 1981, to 1 m2 salt marsh plots in Galveston Bay, Texas. Oil treatments were: no oil, 1 l on sediment, 1.5 l on sediment and lower 30 cm of S. alterniflora and 2 l on sediment and entire S. alterniflora surfaces. All oils caused death of above-ground parts of plants within 3 wk when applied to entire plant surfaces. Partial coverage was harmful only with No. 2 fuel oil, while sediment application had no effect. By 5 mo. new growth had occurred from roots and rhizomes in Arabian crude oil, Libyan crude oil and No. 6 fuel oil plots and live biomass was near that of controls. By 1 yr. recovery was complete. For No. 2 fuel oil plots, which sustained the greatest mortality, growth was significantly below control levels at 5 mo. and 1 yr., but recovery was complete within 2 yr. Slow recovery in No. 2 fuel oil plots appeared to be due to the initial mortality of below-ground, as well as above-ground, plant parts. Toxicity of residual oil in the sediment did not appear to be a factor in slow recovery since seedling establishment had occurred within 5 mo. and little residue of No. 2 fuel oil was present in the sediments after 1 yr. Also, this residue did not contain alkyl-substituted naphthalenes, toxic components present in the original oil. Considerable residues of all oils except No. 2 fuel oil were present in the sediment after 1 yr. Pristane/ nC17 and phytane/nC18 ratios indicated that removal of some oil components had occurred through biodegradation.


pgs. 321-337


aquatic plants, salt marshes, Spartina alterniflora, oil, oil pollution, smooth cordgrass, hydrocarbons, biodegradation, pollution effects