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Spilled oil and in faunal activity modification of burrowing behavior and re distribution of oil


, : Spilled oil and in faunal activity modification of burrowing behavior and re distribution of oil. Marine Environmental Research 11(2): 111-136

A series of experiments in Willapa Bay, Washington [USA], indicated the degree to which the presence of spilled oil modified the burrowing behavior of infauna and the extent to which the animals redistributed oil into intertidal sediment. Small amounts of North Slope crude oil introduced at low tide directly into burrow openings (mostly made by the crustacean Callianassa) resulted in a limited and temporary reduction in the number of burrow openings. A layer of oil-saturated sand 1 cm thick buried .apprx. 5 cm below the sediment surface sharply reduced the number of burrow openings. After 1 yr, the few new burrows penetrated only the margins of the experimental plot, and bioturbation below the buried oil-saturated sand layer declined dramatically. Small amounts of oil temporarily stranded by tides in themselves had no long-range effect on burrowing behavior. The fauna were capable of introducing measurable amounts of oil into the subsurface, where it was retained long after the rest of the stranded oil has washed away. A buried layer of oil-saturated sand greatly reduced infaunal activity; the oil presented an effective barrier that persisted for years. The oil incorporated into the sediment from burrow openings showed evidence of degradation after 7 mo. The layer of buried oil remained essentially undegraded after 2 yr, even though oil in lower concentrations above the layer was degraded after 1 yr. This variation in degree of degradation of the buried oil, and the heterogeneity of oil distribution wherever the oil had been incorporated from the surface, emphasized the importance of careful sampling in any attempt to locate or monitor the presence of spilled oil in the substrate.

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