NOAA Studies Documenting the Impacts of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill
Scientists collect samples and assess health of a bottlenose dolphin on a boat.
Natural Resource Damage Assessment researchers collect samples in 2011 from one of the Barataria Bay dolphins closely studied in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. This dolphin was later found dead in early 2012. (NOAA)

The 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill was the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history, releasing millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

As caretakers of the critical resources damaged by the spill, the state and federal trustees, including our scientific colleagues at universities and institutions around the Gulf, are engaged in a rigorous, scientific process of injury assessment.

Years after the spill, we are still analyzing the data, conducting studies, and evaluating what happened. NOAA's efforts in this regard have generated tens of thousands of samples, millions of analytical results, and more than a dozen studies published so far.

The Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) process is a thorough and time-consuming process by which we evaluate the best scientific evidence available to ensure we understand the injuries caused by the spill, as well as the most appropriate means to restore those injuries and to compensate for the lost use of the Gulf's resources while they are injured.

Below are the published results of NOAA's efforts as of 2016. These studies help advance general scientific understanding and were paid for, partly, or entirely, by NRDA funding. These studies have been published in the following peer-reviewed scientific journals.

Deep Sea Corals and Benthos

Baguley, J.G., P. A. Montagna, C. Cooksey, J. L. Hyland, H.W. Bang, C. Morrison, A. Kamikawa1, P. Bennetts, G. Saiyo, E. Parsons, M. Herdener, and M. Ricci. 2015. Community response of deep-sea soft-sediment metazoan meiofauna to the Deepwater Horizon blowout and oil spill. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 528: 127–140. doi:10.3354/meps11290. May 28.

Bang, H.W., J.G. Baguley, and H. Moon. 2014. A new genus of Cletopsyllidae (Copepoda, Harpacticoida) from Gulf of Mexico. ZooKeys, (391), 37. March 19.

Doughty, C.L., A.M. Quattrini, and E.E. Cordes. 2014. Insights into the population dynamics of the deep-sea coral genus Paramuricea in the Gulf of Mexico. Deep-Sea Research II, 99:71-82. January.

Etnoyer, P.J., L.N. Wickes, M. Silva, J.D. Dubick, E. Salgado, L. Balthis, and I.R. MacDonald. 2015. Decline in condition of sea fans on mesophotic reefs in the northern Gulf of Mexico: before and after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Coral Reefs. doi:10.1007/s00338-015-1363-2

Fisher, C.R., A.W.J. Demopoulos, E.E. Cordes, I.B. Baums, H.K. White, and J.R. Bourque. 2014. Coral Communities as Indicators of Ecosystem-Level Impacts of the Deepwater Horizon Spill. BioScience, 64(9):796–807. doi:10.1093/biosci/biu1292014. September.

Fisher, C.R., P-Y Hsing, C.L. Kaiser, D.R. Yoerger, H.H. Roberts, W.W. Shedd, E.E. Cordes, T.M. Shank, S.P. Berlet, M.G. Saunders, E.A. Larcom, and J.M. Brooks. 2014. Footprint of Deepwater Horizon blowout impact to deep-water coral communities. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. doi:10.1073/pnas.1403492111. July 28.

Hsing P-Y, B. Fu, E.A. Larcom, S.P. Berlet, T.M. Shank, A.F. Govindarajan, A.J. Lukasiewicz, P.M. Dixon, and C.R. Fisher. 2013. Evidence of lasting impact of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on a deep Gulf of Mexico coral community. Elementa Science of the Anthropocene. December 4.

Montagna, P.A., J.G. Baguley, C. Cooksey, I. Hartwell, L.J. Hyde, J.L. Hyland, R.D. Kalke, L.M. Kracker, M. Reuscher, A.C.E. Rhodes. 2013. Deep-Sea Benthic Footprint of the Deepwater Horizon Blowout. PLoS ONE. August 7.

Prouty, N.G., C.R. Fisher, A.W.J. Demopoulos, and E.R.M. Druffel. 2014. Growth rates and ages of deep-sea corals impacted by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Deep Sea Research Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanography. doi:10.1016/j.dsr2.2014.10.021. November 8.

Quattrini, A.M., P.J. Etnoyer, C. Doughty, L. English, R. Falco, N. Remon, M. Rittinghouse, and E.E. Cordes. 2014. A phylogenetic approach to octocoral community structure in the deep Gulf of Mexico. Deep Sea Research II, 99:92-102. January.

Quattrini, A.M., S.E. Georgian, L. Byrnes, A. Stevens, R. Falco, and E.E. Cordes. 2013. Niche divergence by deep-sea octocorals in the genus Callogorgia across the continental slope of the Gulf of Mexico. Molecular Ecology, 22(15):4123-40. doi:10.1111/mec.12370. June 20.

Silva, M., P.J. Etnoyer, and I.R. MacDonald. 2015. Coral injuries observed at mesophotic reefs after the Deepwater Horizon oil discharge. Deep Sea Research Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanography. doi:10.1016/j.dsr2.2015.05.013

White, H.K., P.Y. Hsing, W. Cho, T.M. Shank, E.E. Cordes, A.M. Quattrini, R.K. Nelson, R. Camilli, A. Demopoulos, C.R. German, J.M. Brooks, H.H. Roberts, W. Shedd, C.M. Reddy, and C.R. Fisher. 2012. Impact of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on a deep-water coral community in the Gulf of Mexico [PDF]. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. March 27.

White, H.K., P.Y. Hsing, W. Cho, T.M. Shank, E.E. Cordes, A.M. Quattrini, R.K. Nelson, R. Camilli, A. Demopoulos, C.R. German, J.M. Brooks, H.H. Roberts, W. Shedd, C.M. Reddy, and C.R. Fisher. 2012. Reply to Boehm and Carragher: Multiple lines of evidence link deep-water coral damage to Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, 190(40). October 2.

Fish Toxicity

Block, B. A., J. W., Bograd, Carlisle, A. B., Castleton, M. R., Ganong, J. E., Hazen, E. L., Schallert R. J., Stokesbury, M. Quantifying overlap between the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and predicted bluefin tuna spawning habitat in the Gulf of Mexico. Scientific Reports 6, Article number: 33824 (2016). doi: 10. 1038/srep33824.

Brette, F., B. Machado, C. Cros, J.P. Incardona, N.L. Scholz, and B.A. Block. 2014. Crude oil impairs cardiac excitation-contraction coupling in fish. Science, 343:772-776. February 14.

Incardona, J.P., Gardner, L.D., Linbo, T.L., Swarts, T.L., Esbaugh, A.J., Mager, E.M., Stieglitz, J.D., French, B.L., Labenia, J.S., Laetz, C.A., Tagal, M., Sloan, C.A., Elizur, A., Benetti, D.D., M. Grosell, B.A. Block, and N.L. Scholz. 2014. Deepwater Horizon crude oil impacts the developing hearts of large predatory pelagic fish [PDF]. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. March 24.

Incardona, J.P., T.H. Swarts, R.C. Edmunds, T.L. Linbo, A. Aquilina-Beck, C.A. Sloan, L.D. Gardner, B.A. Block, and N.L. Scholz. 2013. Exxon Valdez to Deepwater Horizon: comparable toxicity of both crude oils to fish early life stages. Aquatic Toxicology, 142-143:303-316. October 15.

Mager, E.M., A.J. Esbaugh, J.D.Stieglitz, R. Hoenig, C. Bodinier, J.P. Incardona, N.L. Scholz, D.D. Benetti, and M. Grosell. 2014. Acute Embryonic or Juvenile Exposure to Deepwater Horizon Crude Oil Impairs the Swimming Performance of Mahi-Mahi (Coryphaena hippurus). Environmental Science and Technology. doi:10.1021/es501628k. May 23.

Marine Mammals

Effects of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill on Protected Marine Species. This is a special issue of Endangered Species Research that contains 20 scientific studies by NOAA scientists and partners on the impacts of the 2010 Gulf oil spill on marine mammals and sea turtles. Endangered Species Research. Vol 33, published Jan 31, 2017.

Balmer, B.C., et al. 2015. Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in blubber of common bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) along the northern Gulf of Mexico coast, USA.. The Total Environment, 527: 306-312. doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2015.05.016. May 14.

Colegrove, K.M., S. Venn-Watson, J. Litz, M.J. Kinsel, K.A. Terio, E. Fougeres, R. Ewing, D.A. Pabst, W.A. McLellan, S. Raverty, J. Saliki, S. Fire, G. Rappucci, S. Bowen-Stevens, L. Noble, A. Costidis, M. Barbieri, C. Field, S. Smith, R.H. Carmichael, C. Chevis, W. Hatchett, D. Shannon, M. Tumlin, G. Lovewell, Wayne McFee, T.K. Rowles. 2016. Fetal distress and in utero pneumonia in perinatal dolphins during the Northern Gulf of Mexico unusual mortality event. Dis Aquat Org, 119:1-16. April 12.

Hildebrand, J.A., S. Baumann-Pickering, K.E. Frasier, J.S. Trickey, K.P. Merkens, S.M. Wiggins, M.A. McDonald, L.P. Garrison, D. Harris, T.A. Marques, and L. Thomas. 2015. Passive acoustic monitoring of beaked whale densities in the Gulf of Mexico. Scientific Reports, 5, 16343. doi:10.1038/srep16343. November 12.

Lane, S.M., C.R. Smith, J. Mitchell, B.C. Balmer, K.P. Barry, T. McDonald, C.S. Mori, P.E. Rosel, T.K. Rowles, T.R. Speakman, F.I. Townsend, M.C. Tumlin, R.S. Wells, E.S. Zolman, and L.H. Schwacke. 2015. Reproductive outcome and survival of common bottlenose dolphins sampled in Barataria Bay, Louisiana, USA, following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Proc. R. Soc. B, 282 20151944. doi:10.1098/rspb.2015.1944. November 4.

Litz, J.A., M.A. Baran, S.R. Bowen-Stevens, R.H. Carmichael, K.M. Colegrove, L.P. Garrison, S.E. Fire, E.M. Fougeres, R. Hardy, S. Holmes, W. Jones, B.E. Mase-Guthrie, D.K. Odell, P.E. Rosel, J.T. Saliki, D.K. Shannon, S.F. Shippee, S.M. Smith, E.M. Stratton, M.C. Tumlin, H.R. Whitehead, G.A.J. Worthy, and T.K. Rowles. 2014. Review of historical unusual mortality events (UMEs) in the Gulf of Mexico (1990-2009): providing context for the multi-year northern Gulf of Mexico cetacean UME declared in 2010 [PDF]. Diseases of Aquatic Organisms. Vol. 112:161-175. December 2.

Mullin, K. D., K. Barry, C. Sinclair, J. Litz, K. Maze-Foley, E. Fougeres, B. Mase-Guthrie, R. Ewing, A. Gorgone, J. Adams and M. Tumlin. 2015. Common bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) in Lake Pontchartrain, Louisiana: 2007 to mid-2014 [PDF]. NOAA Technical Memorandum NMFS-SEFSC-673. 43pp. doi:10.7289/V51C1TT8. February.

Schwacke, L.H., C.R. Smith, F.I. Townsend, R.S. Wells, L.B. Hart, B.C. Balmer, T.K. Collier, S. De Guise, M.M. Fry, L.J. Guillette, Jr., S.V. Lamb, S.M. Lane, W.E. McFee, N.J. Place, M.C. Tumlin, G.M. Ylitalo, E.S. Zolman, and T.K. Rowles. 2013. Health of Common Bottlenose Dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) in Barataria Bay, Louisiana, Following the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. Environmental Science and Technology, 48 (1):93–103, December 18. Supplementary information [PDF].

Schwacke, L.H., C.R. Smith, F.I. Townsend, R.S. Wells, L.B. Hart, B.C. Balmer, T.K. Collier, S. De Guise, M.M. Fry, L.J. Guillette, Jr., S.V. Lamb, S.M. Lane, W.E. McFee, N.J. Place, M.C. Tumlin, G.M. Ylitalo, E.S. Zolman, and T.K. Rowles. 2014. Response to Comment on Health of Common Bottlenose Dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) in Barataria Bay, Louisiana Following the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. Environmental Science and Technology. doi:10.1021/es5009278. March 13.

Sinclair, C., J. Sinclair, E. Zolman, A. Martinez, B. Balmer, and K. Barry. 2015. Remote Biopsy Sampling Field Procedures for Cetaceans Used During the Natural Resource Damage Assessment of the MSC252 Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill [PDF]. NOAA Technical Memorandum NMFS-SEFSC-670. 28pp. doi:10.7289/V5CC0XN0. February.

Van Dolah, F.M., M.G. Neely, L.E. McGeorge, B.C. Balmer, G.M. Ylitalo, et al. 2015. Seasonal Variation in the Skin Transcriptome of Common Bottlenose Dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) from the Northern Gulf of Mexico. PLoS ONE, 10(6): e0130934. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0130934. June 25.

Venn-Watson, S., L. Garrison, J.A. Litz, E.M. Fougeres, B.E. Mase, G. Rappucci, E. Stratton, R. Carmichael, D.K. Odell, D.K. Shannon, S.F. Shippee, S.M. Smith, L. Staggs, M.C. Tumlin, H.R. Whitehead, and T.K. Rowles. 2015. Demographic Clusters Identified within the Northern Gulf of Mexico Common Bottlenose Dolphin (Tursiops truncates) Unusual Mortality Event: January 2010 - June 2013. PLoS ONE, 10(2): e0117248. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0117248. February 11.

Venn-Watson, S., C.R. Smith, E.D. Jensen, and T.K. Rowles. 2013. Assessing the potential health impacts of the 2003 and 2007 firestorms on bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops trucatus) in San Diego Bay. Inhalation Toxicology, 25(29):481-491. doi:10.3109/08958378.2013.804611. August.

Venn-Watson, S., K.M. Colegrove, J. Litz, M. Kinsel, K. Terio, J. Saliki, et al. 2015. Adrenal Gland and Lung Lesions in Gulf of Mexico Common Bottlenose Dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) Found Dead following the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.. PLoS ONE, 10(5): e0126538. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0126538. May 20.

Wells, R.S., C.R. Smith, J.C. Sweeney, F.I. Townsend, D.A. Fauquier, R. Stone. 2014. Fetal survival of common bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) in Sarasota Bay, Florida. Aquatic Mammals, 40(3):252-259. doi:10.1578/AM.40.3.2014.252. August 26.

Oil, Fate, Transport, and Fingerprinting

Forth, Heather P, Mitchelmore, Carys, Morris, Jeffrey M., Lipton, Joshua. March 2016.
Characterization of oil and water accommodated fractions used to conduct aquatic toxicity testing in support of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Natural Resource Damage Assessment. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, Vol. 9999, No. 9999, pp. 1–10, 2016

MacDonald, I. R., O. Garcia-Pineda, A. Beet, S. Daneshgar Asl, L. Feng, G. Graettinger, D. French-McCay, J. Holmes, C. Hu, F. Huffer, I. Leifer, F. Muller-Karger, A. Solow, M. Silva, and G. Swayze. 2015. Natural and unnatural oil slicks in the Gulf of Mexico. J. Geophys. Res. Oceans, 120, doi:10.1002/2015JC011062. December 28.

Stout, S.A. and Payne, J.R. 2016. Chemical composition of floating and sunken in-situ burn residues from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill Mar. Pollut. Bull. 108(1-2): 186-202.

Stout, S.A. and Payne, J.R. 2016. Macondo oil in deep-sea sediments: Part 1 – Sub-sea weathering of oil deposited on the seafloor Mar. Pollut. Bull., Published On-line July 25, 2016.

Stout, S.A., Payne, J.R., Ricker, R.W., Baker, G., Lewis, C. 2016. Macondo oil in deep-sea sediments: Part 2 — Distribution and distinction from background and natural oil seeps. Mar. Pollut. Bull., Published On-line Aug. 8, 2016.

Stout, S.A., Payne, J.R., Emsbo-Mattingly, S.D., Gregory Baker 2016. Weathering of field-collected floating and stranded Macondo oils during and shortly after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Mar. Pollut. Bull. 105(1): 7-22.

Stout, S.A., Rouhani, S., Liu, B., Oehrig, J., Ricker, R.W., Baker, G. (2016). Assessing the footprint and volume of oil deposited in deep-sea sediments following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Marine Pollution Bulletin, published online Janaury 15, 2017.

Sargassum

Hu, C., R. Hardy, E. Ruder, A. Geggel, L. Feng, S. Powers, F. Hernandez, G. Graettinger, J. Bodnar, and T. McDonald. 2016. Sargassum coverage in the northeastern Gulf of Mexico during 2010 from Landsat and airborne observations: Implications for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill impact assessment. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 107(1), 15-21. doi:10.1016/j.marpolbul.2016.04.045. May 8.

Sea Turtles

Effects of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill on Protected Marine Species. This is a special issue of Endangered Species Research that contains 20 scientific studies by NOAA scientists and partners on the impacts of the 2010 Gulf oil spill on marine mammals and sea turtles. Endangered Species Research. Vol 33, published Jan 31, 2017.

Stacy, N.I., C.J. Innis, and J.A. Hernandez. 2013. Development and evaluation of three mortality prediction indices for cold-stunned Kemp's ridley sea turtles (Lepidochelys kempii). Conservation Physiology, 1(1): cot003. doi:10.1093/conphys/cot003. March 4.

Shoreline Species and Habitats

Baker, M.C., Steinhoff, M.A., Fricano, G. 2016. Integrated effects of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill on Nearshore Ecosystems. Marine Ecology Progress Series doi: 10.3354/meps11920.

Hester, M.W., J.M. Willis, S. Rouhani, M.A. Steinhoff, and M.C. Baker. 2016. Impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on the salt marsh vegetation of Louisiana. Environmental Pollution, 216:361-370. doi:10.1016/j.envpol.2016.05.065. June 11.

Kenworthy WJ, Cosentino-Manning N, Handley L, Wild M, Rouhani S (2016)Seagrass response following exposure to Deepwater Horizon oil in the Chandeleur Islands, Louisiana (USA). Mar Ecol Prog Series https://doi.org/10.3354/meps11983

Michel, J., Fegley, Stephen R., Dahlin, Jeffrey A., Wood, Chip. 2016. Oil spill response-related injuries on sand beaches: when shoreline treatment extends the impacts beyond the oil.Marine Ecology Progress Series, doi: 10.3354/meps11917. November 29.

Michel, J., Owens, E.H.,  Zengel, S., Graham, A., Nixon, Z., Allard, T., Holton, W., Reimer, D.P.,  Lamarche, A., White, M., Rutherford, N., Childs, C., Mauseth, G., Challenger, G.,  Taylor, E. June 2013. Extent and Degree of Shoreline Oiling: Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, Gulf of Mexico, USA.PLoS ONE. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0065087.

Nixon, Z., S. Zengel, M. Baker, M. Steinhoff, G.F. Fricano, S. Rouhani, and J. Michel. 2016. Shoreline oiling from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Marine Pollution Bulletin. doi:10.1016/j.marpolbul.2016.04.003. April 18.

Pennings, S.C., Zengel, Scott, Oehrig, J, Alber, M, Bishop, T. D., Deis, D. R., Devlin, D., Hughes, A. R., Hutchens Jr., J. J., Kiehn, W.M., McFarlin, C. R., Montague, C. L., Powers, S., Proffitt, C. E., Rutherford, N., Stagg, C. L., Walters, K. 2016. Marine Ecoregion and Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Affect Recruitment and Population Structure of a Salt Marsh Snail. Ecosphere. DOI: 10.1002/ecs2.1588. Dec 21, 2016.

Rouhani, S, Baker, M. C., Steinhoff, M., Zhang, M., Oehrig, J., Zelo, I., Emsbo-Mattingly, S.D., Nixon, Z.,  Willis, J.M., Hester, M.W. Oct 2016. Nearshore exposure to Deepwater Horizon oil. Marine Ecology Press Series./em> doi: 10.3354/meps11811

Willis, J.M., Hester, M.W., Rouhani, S., Steinhoff, M. A., Baker, M.C. Nov 2016. Field assessment of the impacts of Deepwater Horizon oiling on coastal marsh vegetation of Mississippi and Alabama. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry Journal. DOI: 10.1002/etc.3450

Zengel, S., Bernik, B.M., Rutherford, N., Nixon, Z., Michel, J. July 2015. Heavily Oiled Salt Marsh following the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, Ecological Comparisons of Shoreline Cleanup Treatments and Recovery.PLoS ONE.  doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0132324

Zengel S, Weaver J, Pennings SC, Silliman B, Deis DR, Montague CL, Rutherford N, Nixon Z, Zimmerman AR (2016) Five years of Deepwater Horizon oil spill effects on marsh periwinkles Littoraria irrorata. Mar Ecol Prog Series https://doi.org/10.3354/meps11827

Zengel, S., C.L. Montague, S.C. Pennings, S.P. Powers, M. Steinhoff, G.F. Fricano, C. Schlemme, M. Zhang, J. Oehrig, Z. Nixon, S. Rouhani, and J. Michel. 2015. Impacts of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill on Salt Marsh Periwinkles (Littoraria irrorata). Environmental Science and Technology. doi:10.1021/acs.est.5b04371. December 29.

Zengel, S., S.C. Pennings, B. Silliman, C. Montague, J. Weaver, D.R. Deis, M.O. Krasnec, N. Rutherford, and Z. Nixon. 2016. Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Impacts on Salt Marsh Fiddler Crabs (Uca spp.). Estuaries and Coasts, 39(4), 1154-1163. doi:10.1007/s12237-016-0072-6. February 3.

Zengel, S, Weaver, J, Pennings, S.C., Silliman, B, Deis, D. R, Montague, C.L., Rutherford, N., Nixon, Z.Zimmerman, A.R 2016. Five years of Deepwater Horizon oil spill effects on marsh periwinkles Littoraria irrorata. Mar Ecol Prog Ser, Advance View, Oct 2016.