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Distinct responses of Gulf of Mexico phytoplankton communities to crude oil and the dispersant corexit(A (R)) Ec9500A under different nutrient regimes

Özhan, Koray
Bargu, Sibel
This study examines the potential effects of exposure to South Louisiana sweet crude oil (LSC), Corexit(A (R)) EC9500A, and dispersed oil on enclosed phytoplankton communities under different nutrient regimes. Three distinct microcosm experiments were conducted for 10 days to assess changes to the structure of natural communities from the Gulf of Mexico as quantified by temporal changes in the biomasses of different phytoplankton groups. Concentration of NO3, Si and PO4 were 0.83, 0.99 and 0.09 mu M for the unenriched treatments and 14.07, 13.01 and 0.94 mu M for the enriched treatments, respectively. Overall, the contaminants LSC and Corexit(A (R)) EC9500A led to a decrease in the number of sensitive species and an increase in more resistant species. Phytoplankton communities showed more sensitivity to LSC under nutrient-limited conditions. The addition of nutrients to initially nutrient-limited treatments lessened the inhibitory effect of LSC in the short term. Centric diatoms benefited most from this enrichment, but pennate diatoms demonstrated considerably greater tolerance to crude oil at low crude oil concentrations in nutrient-enriched treatments. Dinoflagellates showed relatively higher tolerance in nutrient-limited treatments and high crude oil concentrations. Corexit(A (R)) EC9500A inputs significantly increased the toxicity of crude oil. Corexit(A (R)) EC9500A alone had a highly inhibitory effect at 63 ppm on phytoplankton communities. This study highlights the fact that different nutrient regimes play a major role in determining the shifts of the phytoplankton community in response to exposure to different concentrations of crude oil and dispersant. Determination of the functional equivalence of shifted phytoplankton groups could complement our research and allow for more pertinent extrapolation to real world conditions.