Recovery trajectories after in situ burning of an oiled wetland in coastal Louisiana, USA

James W Pahl, Irving A Mendelssohn, Charles B Henry, Thomas J Hess
Environmental Management 2003, 31 (2): 236-51
The high degree of physical disturbance associated with conventional response options to oil spills in wetlands is driving the investigation of alternative cleanup methodologies. In March 1995, a spill of gas condensate in a brackish marsh at Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge in southwestern Louisiana was remediated through the use of in situ burning. An assessment of vegetation recovery was initiated in three treatment marshes: (1) oil-impacted and burned, (2) oil impacted and unburned, and (3) a nonoiled unburned reference. We compared percent cover, stem density, and biomass in the treatment marshes to define ecological recovery of the marsh vegetation and soil hydrocarbon content to determine the efficacy of in situ burning as a cleanup technique. Burning led to a rapid decrease in soil hydrocarbon concentrations in the impacted-and-burned marsh to background levels by the end of the first growing season. Although a management fire accidentally burned the oil-impacted-and-unburned and reference marshes in December 1995, stem density, live biomass, and total percent cover values in the oil-impacted-and-burned marsh were equivalent to those in the other treatment marshes after three years. In addition, plant community composition within the oil-impacted-and-burned marsh was similar to the codominant mix of the grasses Distichlis spicata (salt grass) and Spartina patens (wire grass) characteristic of the surrounding marsh after the same time period. Rapid recovery of the oil-impacted-and-unburned marsh was likely due to lower initial hydrocarbon exposure. Water levels inundating the soil surface of this grass-dominated marsh and the timing of the in situ burn early in the growing season were important factors contributing to the rapid recovery of this wetland. The results of this in situ burn evaluation support the conclusion that burning, under the proper conditions, can be relied upon as an effective cleanup response to hydrocarbon spills in herbaceous wetlands.

Full Text Links

Find Full Text Links for this Article


You are not logged in. Sign Up or Log In to join the discussion.

Trending Papers

Remove bar
Read by QxMD icon Read

Save your favorite articles in one place with a free QxMD account.


Search Tips

Use Boolean operators: AND/OR

diabetic AND foot
diabetes OR diabetic

Exclude a word using the 'minus' sign

Virchow -triad

Use Parentheses

water AND (cup OR glass)

Add an asterisk (*) at end of a word to include word stems

Neuro* will search for Neurology, Neuroscientist, Neurological, and so on

Use quotes to search for an exact phrase

"primary prevention of cancer"
(heart or cardiac or cardio*) AND arrest -"American Heart Association"