Frontiers Environmental Science

Oil disturbance reduces infaunal family richness but does not affect phylogenetic diversity

Jul 22, 2022

Author(s): Kara Gadeken, Sarah K. Berke, Susan Bell, Jenna M. Moore, Kelly M. Dorgan

Infaunal organisms are susceptible to disturbances such as hypoxia and sediment contamination; changes in infaunal community structure are therefore often used as indicators of anthropogenic disturbance. Susceptibility to disturbance varies across taxa, either due to physiological factors or to behaviors or functional roles that increase exposure. Both sources of variability are likely to be heritable and shared among related taxa. Thus, we would expect oil disturbance to disproportionately affect related taxa and therefore decrease phylogenetic diversity (PD). We test this hypothesis for a shallow water marine infaunal community using a simulation approach that iteratively removes clades with shared vulnerability to oil exposure. Infauna were sampled at two sites in the Chandeleur Islands, LA, that reflect different exposures to crude oil after the Deepwater Horizon event. Seagrass and adjacent bare sediment habitats were sampled in 2015, 5 years after initial oil exposure, and again in 2016 after an acute re-oiling event. We found that strong correlation between PD and family richness masked any detectable PD patterns with oil exposure. For our full community tree, sensitivity analysis indicated that the removal of larger clades did not disproportionately reduce PD, against our prediction. For this pair of sites, PD did not provide a better metric for assessing the impacts of oil exposure than family richness alone. It is possible, however, that finer-scale taxonomic resolution of infaunal communities may better decouple PD from taxonomic richness. More work is needed to fully evaluate the impacts of disturbance on PD. More here.