Of the estimated 5 million barrels of crude oil released into the Gulf of Mexico from the BP Deepwater Horizon event, a fraction heavily oiled Louisiana's coastal salt marshes. Oil inputs may significantly alter the abundance, structure and diversity of the microbial communities inhabited in the sediments, and subsequently affect essential microbial services. In this study, detailed analysis was conducted to investigate the possible impact of petroleum residuals on soil microbial communities of salt marsh in northern Barataria Bay of the Gulf of Mexico after the oil spill. Sediment samples from heavily, moderately, non-oiled sites were collected after 7 months, 16 months and 29 months of the spill and Total Petroleum Hydrocarbons (TPH) were measured. Since traditional gas chromatography (GC) analysis cannot identify heavy fractions of the oil containments, we incorporated ultrahigh resolving power Fourier Transform Ion Cyclotron Resonance mass spectrometry (FT-ICR-MS) to address the compositional complexity of high molecular weight, nonvolatile petroleum fractions of the oil containments that are not readily degraded by the indigenous microbial community. The petrogentic material was extracted with methylene chloride followed by positive and negative electrospray (ESI) FT-ICR-MS characterization. These data can be correlated with the analysis of the diversity and structure of the microbial community to elucidate how the oil contamination perturbed the microbial community and how the microbes responded to the perturbation. Mass spectrometry analysis of these samples display a 1.5 to 2.5 fold increase in the molecular complexity, particularly oxygen compounds relative to the original Macondo well oil and ketone species were abundantly present in the oiled sediment extracts. The comprehensive analysis on the petroleum residues will help us better understand the fate of oil released into the environment and the long-term impact of BP oil spill.

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