Posted by: stiltsville | November 8, 2010

Hungry, hungry plankton

This is the hard-core science abstract from Environmental Research Letters:

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill was unprecedented in total loading of petroleum hydrocarbons accidentally released to a marine ecosystem. Controversial application of chemical dispersants presumably accelerated microbial consumption of oil components, especially in warm Gulf of Mexico surface waters. We employed δ13C as a tracer of oil-derived carbon to resolve two periods of isotopic carbon depletion in two plankton size classes. Carbon depletion was coincident with the arrival of surface oil slicks in the far northern Gulf, and demonstrated that subsurface oil carbon was incorporated into the plankton food web.

Ok, in plain english, this means microbes ate a bunch of carbon. Then the plankton ate the microbes. Carbon measurements in September show carbon levels in microscopic ocean life had returned to normal pre-spill levels.


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