The 'World Prodigy' oil spill in Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island: acute effects on macrobenthic crustacean populations

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On June 26,1989, the tanker 'World Prodigy' ran aground just outside the mouth of the West Passage of Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island, USA. About 922 metric tons of No. 2 fuel oil were released into the water and drifted over a total area of about 120 sq miles. Three days after the spill only a small fraction of the oil remained. The effects on macrobenthic crustaceans within the first five weeks after the spill were studied at five stations with a varying degree of oil exposure, including one control site never reached by oil from the spill. Significant differencies between these stations were noted for total amphipod abundance, the amphipod genus Ampelisca and ostracods (retained on a 0.3 mm mesh), but not for amphipods of the genus Corophium. At the most heavily impacted station (23 μg oil g-1 sediment dry weight), the total amphipod abundance, dominated by Ampelisca verrilli, decreased by 86% within the first two weeks after the spill. Decreases in total amphipod abundance significantly larger than at the control site were noted also at two other stations, one of which with only trace amounts of oil detected in the sediment. The amphipod populations at these sites were dominated by juvenile specimens. These findings confirm the extreme sensitivity to oil pollution of amphipods and ostracods, noted in earlier field and experimental studies. © 1994 Kluwer Academic Publishers.

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