Mesopelagic microbial community dynamics in response to increasing oil and Corexit 9500 concentrations. Academic Article uri icon


  • Marine microbial communities play an important role in biodegradation of subsurface plumes of oil that form after oil is accidentally released from a seafloor wellhead. The response of these mesopelagic microbial communities to the application of chemical dispersants following oil spills remains a debated topic. While there is evidence that contrasting results in some previous work may be due to differences in dosage between studies, the impacts of these differences on mesopelagic microbial community composition remains unconstrained. To answer this open question, we exposed a mesopelagic microbial community from the Gulf of Mexico to oil alone, three concentrations of oil dispersed with Corexit 9500, and three concentrations of Corexit 9500 alone over long periods of time. We analyzed changes in hydrocarbon chemistry, cell abundance, and microbial community composition at zero, three and six weeks. The lowest concentration of dispersed oil yielded hydrocarbon concentrations lower than oil alone and microbial community composition more similar to control seawater than any other treatments with oil or dispersant. Higher concentrations of dispersed oil resulted in higher concentrations of microbe-oil microaggregates and similar microbial composition to the oil alone treatment. The genus Colwellia was more abundant when exposed to multiple concentrations of dispersed oil, but not when exposed to dispersant alone. Conversely, the most abundant Marinobacter amplicon sequence variant (ASV) was not influenced by dispersant when oil was present and showed an inverse relationship to the summed abundance of Alcanivorax ASVs. As a whole, the data presented here show that the concentration of oil strongly impacts microbial community response, more so than the presence of dispersant, confirming the importance of the concentrations of both oil and dispersant in considering the design and interpretation of results for oil spill simulation experiments.

published proceedings

  • PLoS One

altmetric score

  • 8

author list (cited authors)

  • Aljandal, S., Doyle, S. M., Bera, G., Wade, T. L., Knap, A. H., & Sylvan, J. B.

citation count

  • 4

complete list of authors

  • Aljandal, Shahd||Doyle, Shawn M||Bera, Gopal||Wade, Terry L||Knap, Anthony H||Sylvan, Jason B

editor list (cited editors)

  • Poretsky, R. S.

publication date

  • January 2022