187 Measuring the Fate and Natural Attenuation Potential of a Viscous Marine Fuel on an Artificial Beach Mesocosm

Poon H.Y., Greer C.W., Wasserscheid J., Elias M., Watts T., Wohlgeschaffen G., Cobanli S.E., Robinson B., King T.L., Ortmann A.C. (2024) Environmental Processes, 11 (2), art. no. 27,  DOI: 10.1007/s40710-024-00711-9

ABSTRACT: Shoreline oiling poses a risk to coastal ecosystems and resources. Understanding the natural attenuation potential and impact of different sediment types is important for choosing appropriate intervention strategies and priority areas following a spill. Simulated IFO-40 oil spills on artificial beach mesocosms were carried out using different sediment types: sandy beach and sandy tidal flat, under low energy tidal cycles over a 5-day period. Chemical and biological analysis of leachate and sediment was conducted to understand the movement of oil through these mesocosms. Rapid oil movement from the oil slick to the surface sediment layer was observed in the sandy beach enclosures, while slower oil movement was observed in the sandy tidal flat enclosures. Increased hydrocarbon dissolution was observed in the sandy beach enclosures, marked by higher concentrations of low molecular weight n-Alkanes (C12 − 15) and naphthalenes (C0 − 3) in sandy beach leachate compared to sandy tidal flat samples. Despite the increase in hydrocarbons, there were no major shifts in microbial communities observed in the leachate and sediment compartments for either sediment type. Both prokaryote and microeukaryote communities differed between the two sediment types, with little overlap between dominant sequences. Our results indicate that limited oil penetration occurs within sandy tidal flat shorelines resulting in oil accumulation suggesting that sorbent or vacuuming could be used as emergency response to minimize the environmental and ecological impacts of spilled oil.

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