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Salt Marsh Recovery and Oil Spill Remediation After In-Situ Burning: Effects of Water Depth and Burn Duration



I. A. Mendelssohn, Q. Lin, K. Carney, Nelson P. Bryner, William D. Walton


Oil spills pose a serious risk to the health of wetland systems. A cleanup technique that is compatible with the wetland environment and is consistent with present wetland management procedures would be highly valued. In-situ burning of oiled wetlands potenually provides such a procedure. However, the burning of wetlands can have beneficial as well as detrimental impacts. Factors, such as water depth over the soil surface, the season of the burn, and burning intensity and duration may influence the response of wetlands to the burn, yet these factors have not been adequately addressed scientifically. A mesocosm scale investigation was conducted to study the effects of water depth, burn duration, and oil application on the relationship between recovery of marsh vegetation, soil temperature and oil remediation. Marsh sods, which were collected from a south Louisiana salt marsh dominated by Spartina alterniflora, were instrumented with thermocouples and assigned to the following treatments: (a) Oil exposure: unweathered diesel (1.5 l/m2) versus no diesel application, (b) Burn duration: 400 s (seconds) versus 1400 s (seconds), and (c) Water depth: -1O, -2, 0, and 10 cm of the marsh surface relative to the water level. Soil temperature, as a function of soil depth and sod elevation, was continuously recorded during the burn and for a total of 5400 s post-burn. After the burns, the mesocosms were returned to the greenhouse where plant recovery was monitored. Soil samples for total petroleum hydrocarbon and gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS) analyses were collected 24 hours after oil addition and 1 day and 7 months post-burn.
Environmental Science and Technology
Report Number
No. 4


oil spills, in situ burning, water, statistical analysis


Mendelssohn, I. , Lin, Q. , Carney, K. , Bryner, N. and Walton, W. (2002), Salt Marsh Recovery and Oil Spill Remediation After In-Situ Burning: Effects of Water Depth and Burn Duration, Environmental Science and Technology, [online], (Accessed June 19, 2024)


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Created December 31, 2001, Updated October 12, 2021