Coupled effects of oil spill and hurricane on saltmarsh terrestrial arthropods

Wokil Bam*, Linda M. Hooper-Bui, Rachel M. Strecker, Puspa L. Adhikari, Edward
B. Overton

Terrestrial arthropods play an important role in saltmarsh ecosystems, mainly affecting the saltmarsh’s primary production as the main consumers of terrestrial primary production and decomposition. Some of these arthropods, including selected insects and spiders, can be used as ecological indicators of overall marsh environmental health, as they are differential sensitive to ecological stressors, such as land loss, erosion, oil spills, and tropical storms. In the present study, we used terrestrial arthropods collected from seven (three lightly-oiled, four heavily-oiled) sites in Barataria Bay and from three unoiled reference sites in Delacroix, Louisiana, to determine the impacts of the distribution and re-distribution of Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil on these saltmarsh ecosystems. A total of 9,476 and 12,256 insects were collected in 2013 and 2014, respectively. The results show that the terrestrial arthropods were negatively affected by the re-distribution of DWH oil by Hurricane Isaac in 2012, although the level of impacts varied among the arthropod groups. Moreover, the mean diversity index was higher (>1.5) in 2014 than in 2013 (<1.5) for all sites, suggesting a recovery trajectory of
the saltmarsh arthropod population. The higher taxonomic richness observed in the reference sites compared to the oiled sites for both years also indicated long-term impacts of DWH oil to the saltmarsh arthropod community. Whereas a slow recovery of certain terrestrial arthropods was observed, long-term monitoring of arthropod communities would help better understand the recovery and succession of the marsh ecosystems.

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