Authors: Sébastien Putzeys, Miryam Juárez-Fonseca, Sonia S. Valencia-Agami, Armando Mendoza-Flores, Daniel Cerqueda-García, Ana C. Aguilar-Trujillo, Manuel E. Martínez-Cruz, Yuri B. Okolodkov, Flor Arcega-Cabrera, Jorge A. Herrera-Silveira, M. Leopoldina Aguirre-Macedo & Daniel Pech

Oiling scenarios following spills vary in concentration and usually can affect large coastal areas. Consequently, this research evaluated different crude oil concentrations (10, 40, and 80 mg L−1) on the nearshore phytoplanktonic community in the southern Gulf of Mexico. This experiment was carried out for ten days using eight units of 2500 L each; factors monitored included shifts in phytoplankton composition, physicochemical parameters and the culturable bacterial abundance of heterotrophic and hydrocarbonoclastic groups. The temperature, salinity, and nutrient concentrations measured were within the ranges previously reported for Yucatan Peninsula waters. The total hydrocarbon concentration (TPH) in the control at T0 indicated the presence of hydrocarbons (PAHs 0.80 μg L−1, aliphatics 7.83 μg L−1 and UCM 184.09 μg L−1). At T0, the phytoplankton community showed a similar assemblage structure and composition in all treatments. At T10, the community composition remained heterogeneous in the control, in agreement with previous reports for the area. However, for oiled treatments, Bacillariophyceae dominated at T10. Hydrocarbonoclastic bacteria were associated with oiled treatments throughout the experiment, while heterotrophic bacteria were associated with control conditions. Our results agreed with previous works at the taxonomic level showing the presence of Bacillariophyceae and Dinophyceae in oil-related treatments, where these groups showed the major interactions in co-occurrence networks. In contrast, Chlorophyceae showed the key node in the co-occurrence network for the control. This study aims to contribute to knowledge on phytoplankton community shifts during a crude oil spill in subtropical oligotrophic regions.

Keywords: Community structure, Gulf of Mexico, Light crude oil spill, Mesocosm, Petroleum hydrocarbon, Phytoplankton