Standing stocks and body size of deep-sea macrofauna: Predicting the baseline of 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the northern Gulf of Mexico Academic Article uri icon


  • A composite database encompassing 6 benthic surveys from years 1983 to 2003 was constructed to evaluate the distribution of macrofaunal biomass in the deep Gulf of Mexico (GoM) prior to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Predictive models based on optimal scaling of ocean color data and high resolution bathymetry were employed to map the benthic biomass in the vicinity of spill site because no previous sampling had been conducted at that exact location. The predicted biomass declines with water and mixed layer depth and is an increasing function of surface primary production and temporal variation of sea surface temperature. The decline of animal size with depth, however, was a function of a shift of dominant abundance from large to small taxa. At a local scale, high benthic biomass in the N GoM was associated with the enhanced productivity by the nutrient-laden Mississippi River outflows, offshore transport of the river plumes, and upwelling along the northern edge of the Loop Current. The apparent biomass enhancement at the Mississippi and De Soto Canyon and deep sediment fan was presumably related to lateral down-slope advection of organic carbon from the surrounding continental margin. Except for the Campeche Bank, the meager biomass of the Mexican margin may reflect the characteristic low-productivity Caribbean water that enters the GoM through Yucatan Strait. Benthic biomass in the N GoM was not statistically different between comprehensive surveys in the years 1983-1985 and 2000-2002. The stock assessment and biomass predictions from 669 cores at 170 locations throughout the deep GoM provide an important baseline of the sediment-dwelling fauna that may be subjected to immediate or long-term impacts from the oil spill or from climate change. 2012 Elsevier Ltd.

published proceedings


author list (cited authors)

  • Wei, C., Rowe, G. T., Escobar-Briones, E., Nunnally, C., Soliman, Y., & Ellis, N.

citation count

  • 29

complete list of authors

  • Wei, Chih-Lin||Rowe, Gilbert T||Escobar-Briones, Elva||Nunnally, Clifton||Soliman, Yousria||Ellis, Nick

publication date

  • November 2012