Ecological services provided by the Gulf of Mexico constitute vital assets for the socioeconomic development of the USA, Mexico, and Cuba. This ecosystem houses vast biodiversity and significant fossil fuel reserves. However, its ecological stability and resilience have been jeopardized by anthropogenic disturbances. Massive oil spills (Ixtoc-I, 1979; Deepwater Horizon, 2010) caused severe environmental injuries and unveiled the vulnerability of coastal and deep-sea habitats. Baseline and monitoring studies are actions implemented by the Gulf stakeholders to cope with such disturbances. The 3-year monitoring program implemented by Mexico in 2010 to assess the environmental damage caused by the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) event confirmed the void of knowledge on the complexity of physical and biological processes susceptible of being altered by oil spills. Between the pelagic and benthic compartments, the latter proved to be a better option in establishing the baseline concentration and trends of oil compounds. Surficial sediments exhibited an increasing concentration trend of PAH, AH, and trace metals throughout the 3-year monitoring. The macroinfauna and selected biomarkers experienced interannual variability attributed to critical hydrocarbon and trace metal thresholds. Sediment toxicity bioassays added support to the distribution and potential sources of oil contaminants dispersed from the northern gulf toward Mexican waters.
Part of the book: Monitoring of Marine Pollution