Dynamic autoinoculation and the microbial ecology of a deep water hydrocarbon irruption

Edited by Jane Lubchenco, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, and approved November 30, 2011 (received for review June 1, 2011)
January 10, 2012
109 (50) 20286-20291

Abstract

The irruption of gas and oil into the Gulf of Mexico during the Deepwater Horizon event fed a deep sea bacterial bloom that consumed hydrocarbons in the affected waters, formed a regional oxygen anomaly, and altered the microbiology of the region. In this work, we develop a coupled physical–metabolic model to assess the impact of mixing processes on these deep ocean bacterial communities and their capacity for hydrocarbon and oxygen use. We find that observed biodegradation patterns are well-described by exponential growth of bacteria from seed populations present at low abundance and that current oscillation and mixing processes played a critical role in distributing hydrocarbons and associated bacterial blooms within the northeast Gulf of Mexico. Mixing processes also accelerated hydrocarbon degradation through an autoinoculation effect, where water masses, in which the hydrocarbon irruption had caused blooms, later returned to the spill site with hydrocarbon-degrading bacteria persisting at elevated abundance. Interestingly, although the initial irruption of hydrocarbons fed successive blooms of different bacterial types, subsequent irruptions promoted consistency in the structure of the bacterial community. These results highlight an impact of mixing and circulation processes on biodegradation activity of bacteria during the Deepwater Horizon event and suggest an important role for mixing processes in the microbial ecology of deep ocean environments.

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Acknowledgments

We thank M. Du, R. Camilli, C. Reddy, and J. Kessler for providing anomaly locations and S. Bagby for comments. This research was supported by National Science Foundation Grants OCE-0961725 and EAR-0950600 (to D.L.V.), Department of Energy Award DE-NT0005667 (to D.L.V.), Office of Naval Research Award ONR MURI N00014-11-1-0087 (to I.M.), and the Naval Research Laboratory Core Project Full Column Mixing for Numerical Ocean Models (P.J.H.).

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Information & Authors

Information

Published in

Go to Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Vol. 109 | No. 50
December 11, 2012
PubMed: 22233808

Classifications

Submission history

Published online: January 10, 2012
Published in issue: December 11, 2012

Keywords

  1. oil spill
  2. well blowout
  3. intrusion layers

Acknowledgments

We thank M. Du, R. Camilli, C. Reddy, and J. Kessler for providing anomaly locations and S. Bagby for comments. This research was supported by National Science Foundation Grants OCE-0961725 and EAR-0950600 (to D.L.V.), Department of Energy Award DE-NT0005667 (to D.L.V.), Office of Naval Research Award ONR MURI N00014-11-1-0087 (to I.M.), and the Naval Research Laboratory Core Project Full Column Mixing for Numerical Ocean Models (P.J.H.).

Notes

This article is a PNAS Direct Submission.

Authors

Affiliations

David L. Valentine1 [email protected]
Department of Earth Science and Marine Science Institute, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA 93106;
Igor Mezić
Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA 93106;
Senka Maćešić
Faculty of Engineering, University of Rijeka, Rijeka, Croatia HR-51000;
Nelida Črnjarić-Žic
Faculty of Engineering, University of Rijeka, Rijeka, Croatia HR-51000;
Stefan Ivić
Faculty of Engineering, University of Rijeka, Rijeka, Croatia HR-51000;
Patrick J. Hogan
Naval Research Laboratory, Stennis Space Center, MS 39529; and
Vladimir A. Fonoberov
Aimdyn, Inc., Santa Barbara, CA 93101
Sophie Loire
Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA 93106;

Notes

1
To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: [email protected].
Author contributions: D.L.V. and I.M. designed research; D.L.V., I.M., S.M., N.C.-Z., S.I., and P.J.H. performed research; D.L.V., I.M., V.A.F., and S.L. contributed new analytic tools; D.L.V., I.M., S.M., N.C.-Z., S.I., and P.J.H. analyzed data; and D.L.V. and I.M. wrote the paper.

Competing Interests

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

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    Dynamic autoinoculation and the microbial ecology of a deep water hydrocarbon irruption
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
    • Vol. 109
    • No. 50
    • pp. 20167-20774

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