Microbial responses to the deepwater Horizon Oil spill: From Coastal Wetlands to the Deep Sea
Copyright © 2015 by Annual Reviews. All rights reserved. The Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the northern Gulf of Mexico represents the largest marine accidental oil spill in history. It is distinguished from past spills in that it occurred at the greatest depth (1,500 m), the amount of hydrocarbon gas (mostly methane) lost was equivalent to the mass of crude oil released, and dispersants were used for the first time in the deep sea in an attempt to remediate the spill. The spill is also unique in that it has been characterized with an unprecedented level of resolution using next-generation sequencing technologies, especially for the ubiquitous hydrocarbon-degrading microbial communities that appeared largely to consume the gases and to degrade a significant fraction of the petroleum. Results have shown an unexpectedly rapid response of deep-sea Gammaproteobacteria to oil and gas and documented a distinct succession correlated with the control of the oil flow and well shut-in. Similar successional events, also involving Gammaproteobacteria, have been observed in nearshore systems as well.