The 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill released 4.1 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico and was the first major release of oil and natural gases into the deep ocean (1,500 meters). Due to the depth of the spill, vast plumes of small oil droplets remained trapped deep in the ocean (900-1,300 meters) where they underwent biodegradation by the local microbial community. Until now, researchers have been puzzled over the metabolic capabilities driving the shifts between microbial communities to degrade the crude oil. In this study researchers have been able to present the first complete picture of how successive waves of microbial populations degraded the released oil. They were also able to recover high-quality genomes of the key microbial players, and determine the metabolic factors driving the shifts between microbial communities.
This work was supported by a subcontract from the University of California, Berkeley Energy Bioscience Institute to Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory under its US Department of Energy Contract DE-AC02-05CH11231. Work done by the DOE JGI was also through Contract DE-AC02-05CH11231. Other funding was provided by BP Exploration & Production Inc., the BP Gulf Coast Restoration Organization through Florida International University Project 800001556, and Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft Grant PR1603/1-1.
Read the full release at the Joint Genome Institute