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Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Persistence and Chemistry Projects:
Persistence of Oil in Mussel Beds

  picture of an oiled mussel bed

Principal Investigators:

Patricia M. Harris
(907) 789-6022

Mark Carls
(907) 789-6019

View FY00 Proposal

View 2000 Restoration Abstract

View Mussel Bed Restoration Poster

Copy of report:  Musslbed.pdf

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Many mussel beds in the area of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, particularly those on soft sediment, were not cleaned immediately after the spill. Consequently these beds had high concentrations of hydrocarbons in  sediments and tissues.

Although the general assumption was that natural processes would rapidly reduce hydrocarbon concentrations, substantial quantities of oil remained trapped in these beds 3 years after the spill, and contaminated mussel beds were a potential source of chronic hydrocarbon exposure for vertebrate and invertebrate predators.

The Oil Spill musssel bed project assesses the recovery of 28 mussel beds in Prince William Sound that still had significant concentrations of Exxon Valdez oil when last sampled in 1995 or 1996. In 1994 we replaced oiled sediments with clean sediments in 12 of the beds. Replaced sediments remained clean though 1995 and mussel hydrocarbon concentrations decreased significantly. However, 1996 samples indicated recontamination of the replaced sediments and the potential for recontamination of some mussel beds and mussels. Manual restoration of mussel beds contaminated by Exxon Valdez oil was partially successful in reducing hydrocarbon concentrations in mussels and sediments more rapidly than would have occurred in the absence of restoration.

NRDA Annual Report - Restoration Study 103-1
Babcock, M.M., S.D. Rice, P.M. Harris, and C.C. Brodersen. 1996. Recovery monitoring and restoration of intertidal oiled mussel beds in Prince William Sound impacted by the Exxon Valdez oil spill: 1991 and 1992, Exxon Valdez Oil Spill State/Federal Natural Resource Damage Assessment Annual Report (Restoration Study Number 103-1), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Marine Fisheries Service, Auke Bay Laboratory, Juneau, Alaska.


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