Long-term biological effects of petroleum residues on fiddler crabs in salt marshes

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Culbertson, Jennifer B.
Valiela, Ivan
Peacock, Emily E.
Reddy, Christopher M.
Carter, Anna
VanderKruik, Rachel
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Oil pollution
Fiddler crabs
Salt marsh
No. 2 fuel oil
Petroleum hydrocarbons
In September 1969,the Florida barge spilled 700,000 L of No. 2 fuel oil into the salt marsh sediments of Wild Harbor (Buzzards Bay, MA). Today the aboveground environment appears unaffected, but a substantial amount of moderately degraded petroleum still remains 8 to 20 cm below the surface. The salt marsh fiddler crabs, Uca pugnax, which burrow into the sediments at depths of 5 to 25 cm, are chronically exposed to the spilled oil. Behavioral studies conducted with U. pugnax from Wild Harbor and a control site, Great Sippewissett marsh, found that crabs exposed to the oil avoided burrowing into oiled layers, suffered delayed escape responses, lowered feeding rates, and lower densities. The oil residues are therefore biologically active and affect U. pugnax populations. Our results add new knowledge about long-term consequences of spilled oil, a dimension that should be included when assessing oil-impacted areas and developing management plans designed to restore, rehabilitate, or replace impacted areas.
Author Posting. © The Author(s), 2007. This is the author's version of the work. It is posted here by permission of Elsevier B.V. for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Marine Pollution Bulletin 54 (2007): 955-962, doi:10.1016/j.marpolbul.2007.02.015.
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