The aim of this volume is to highlight the role and responses of Gulf of Mexico (GoM) microorganisms during the ensuing Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill occurring in April 2010. In addition, recent technological advances in molecular microbiological methods, especially genomics-based techniques, that facilitate rapid identification, tracking, enumeration and genome sequencing of microorganisms contributing to the remediation and natural attenuation of the DWH oil spill will be presented. The genomics-based techniques provide an innovative molecular tool kit that can be applied to future oil spills so as to predict and effectively manage the short-term and long-term impacts of hydrocarbon spills on the environment. In contrast to previous oil spills (e.g., Santa Barbara, 1969; Ixtoc I, 1979; Exxon Valdez, 1989; Prestige, 2002) the DWH 2010 spill was unprecedented for a number of reasons; the volume of oil released, the depth of the well head, the spill duration, and the injection and widespread use of dispersant. As evidenced by the scientific findings to date (Hazen et al., 2010; Sobecky et al., in prep; Valentine et al., 2010), GoM microorganisms demonstrated a remarkable and rapid response to the oil spill. GoM hydrocarbon-degrading bacteria increased in numbers as well as changed in population structure rapidly in response to the DWH spill with concomitant removal of many of the light crude components from the overlying water column. A number of invited authors have been extensively studying the microbial degradation of the GoM DWH oil spill. Other authors have been studying microbial responses to hydrocarbons for decades in marine and terrestrial systems.
Lessons learned from the Exxon Valdez, Ixtoc and other marine spills.- The genetics of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon metabolism and the biodegradation of priority pollutants in the environment.- Oceanspirillus-and the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill; an omics approach to detect a new hydrocarbon degrader.- Beach ecosystems and microbial hydrocarbon degradation.- Strategies to limit the impact of oil spills and accelerate the natural healing of coastal and wetland habitats.- Field-based studies.- Environmental Restoration.- Dispersants and the DWH oil spill.- Microbial enzymes and pathways for hydrocarbon (and dispersant) biodegradation.- Anaerobic hydrocarbon degradation.-Metagenomic analysis of hydrocarbon degradation in the environment. Deepwater methane gas release from DWH and microbial metabolism. Anaerobic hydrocarbon degradation in marine systems.- Subject index