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Science of The Total Environment
Volume 820, 2022, 152892

A comprehensive petrochemical vulnerability index for marine fishes in the Gulf of Mexico

Megan Woodyarda, Beth A. Polidorob

Department of Environmental Science, Baylor University, One Bear Place #97266, Waco, TX 76798, USA.


Oil and gas extraction activities occur across the globe, yet species-specific toxicological information on the biological and ecological impacts of exposure to petrochemicals is lacking for the vast majority of marine species. To help prioritize species for recovery, mitigation, and conservation in light of significant toxicological data gaps, a trait-based petrochemical vulnerability index was developed and applied to the more than 1700 marine fishes present across the entire Gulf of Mexico, including all known bony fishes, sharks, rays and chimaeras. Using life history and other traits related to likelihood of exposure, physiological sensitivity to exposure, and population resiliency, final calculated petrochemical vulnerability scores can be used to provide information on the relative sensitivity, or resilience, of marine fish populations across the Gulf of Mexico to oil and gas activities. Based on current knowledge of traits, marine fishes with the highest vulnerability scores primarily occur in areas of high petrochemical activity, are found at or near the surface, and have low reproductive turnover rates and/or highly specialized diet and habitat requirements. Relative population vulnerability scores for marine fishes can be improved with additional toxicokinetic studies, including those that account for the synergistic or additive effect of multiple stressors, as well as increased research on ecological and life history traits, especially for deep living species.

Keywords: Risk assessment, Marine fishes, Gulf of Mexico, Oil and gas, Population vulnerability.

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