It has been reported by news media that the oil slick spreading from the Deepwater Horizon disaster threatens fisheries, tourism and the habitat of hundreds of bird species who come ashore every year to breed. We thought it would be interesting to see what kind of impact species other than humans are having due to the oil spill.
CHECK OUT THIS LINK FOR PICTURES OF BIRDS AFFECTED BY THE OIL SPILL
- Coral Reefs – Coral reefs are home to 25% of all marine species, they are called the tropical rain forests of the sea. However, the tiny colonial animals that build these intricate limestone masses are dying at alarming rates. Scientists in the early 2000 declared that if this trend continued, in 20 years the living corals on many of the world’s reefs will be dead and the ecosystems that depend on them severely damaged. I was wondering whether we had coral reefs in the Gulf of Mexico and as per the US Geological survey there are at least 2 substantial reefs in the gulf Flower garden banks and the Florida reef tract (check the image below).
Studies have shown that the dispersants and dispersed oil droplets are significantly more toxic to the coral than the crude oil itself, the scientists report. The dispersants caused “significant harm,” including rapid, widespread death and delay in growth rates, to the coral colonies. Read more about it in detail here
- Microbes in the water can break down oil. The number of microbes that grow in response to the more concentrated BP spill could tip that system out of balance, says LSU oceanographer Mark Benfield. Too many microbes in the sea could suck oxygen from the water, creating an uninhabitable hypoxic area, or “dead zone.”
- Birds and animals that live on the shore. Check out the link for the list of endangered species which calls the Gulf of Mexico and its shores their home. The plants on the shores will all be dead if oil reaches the shore and seeps into the soil. The nesting grounds of thousands of birds and amphibians. Louisiana’s state bird the Brown Pelican is threatened too as it’s nesting areas and food has been contaminated after having made a comeback in the last couple of years after the hurricanes Katrina and Rita wreaked havoc on their environment.
- Ocean dwellers – The birds and the turtles we see, we also see the shores and the plants being affected, but 5000 feet deep under the ocean lies a world away from our eyes inhabited by sperm whales and planktons. From the planktons to fishes and mammals the variety of life in the ocean is very diverse. If one of them is affected by the oil it can affect the whole food chain. Schools of Minnows are already seen swimming just below the oil in many places, scientists are pretty sure they are doomed. Birds which prey on those fish too are susceptible to the toxins from the fishes. An e.g.: for a fish would be the Small-tooth saw fish used to have a wide habitat but are now concentrated off Florida’s southwest coast. “Every fish and invertebrate contacting the oil is probably dying. I have no doubt about that,” said Prosanta Chakrabarty, a Louisiana State University fish biologist.
One main story which could become the poster boy sort of for The Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Environmental impact is the Giant Atlantic Blue Fin Tuna which has been over-fished for years and the spill added to its woes. The Gulf of Mexico is where the Blue Fin comes to spawn; nurseries of the beautiful fish call the gulf its home. It is in dire need of help, Imagine a fish with a reproductive strategy where it has to grow from a tiny egg to a 225 lb fish, and than once mature, it goes to spawn in the Gulf of Mexico for 4-6 weeks. If that’s your evolutionary strategy for reproduction, you’d better hope that your spawning ground is just like you left it the year before- warm and clean. The rest of the year the giant Blue fin swims the entire North Atlantic ranging from frigid seas off the Maritimes of Canada to Iceland, from the Azores to the shores of North Carolina. Read more here .The spawning grounds of many of these marine organisms are now being drenched in oil, the effects of which won’t be known for some time.
The organizations which are working to help the Atlantic Blue Fin tuna
Recent discoveries of endangered sea turtles soaked in oil and 22 dolphins found dead in the spill zone only hint at the scope of a potential calamity that could last years and unravel the Gulf’s food web.
To know the impact and extent of damage we will need to wait for the oil spill to be contained and the maximum amount of oil cleaned… Hoping for some good news soon from Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill…
Below is a list of the endangered species which call the Gulf their home. Courtesy of the NOAA
US exempted BP’s Gulf of Mexico Drilling from an Environmental study! Read the full article here
Latest on the Oil Spill from NY Times
An interesting read from the Financial Times