Oil in the Water: the spill in the Gulf and the potential future impact May 2, 2010Posted by Colleen in Ecology, Environment/Conservation.
Most of us have heard about the massive oil spill that occurred on April 20th in the Gulf of Mexico when an oil rig exploded, killing 11 workers. It is estimated that at least 1.6 million gallons have leaked into the waters of the gulf. The oil has now officially claimed its first victim, according to an LA News Monitor online story, a Northern Gannet seabird. This death means that the oil has officially started to impact the surrounding environment.
Unfortunately, down the road this could mean bad things for the organisms of the Gulf of Mexico. According to a Science Daily article, the oil from the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill is still affecting the wildlife of Alaska even after over 20 years has passed. This disaster spilled 10.8 million gallons of crude oil over 1300 square miles. After all of this time some of the organisms, especially the near-shore ones, continue to ingest the residual oil. A group of scientists testing the continued impact of the oil looked at the harlequin duck as an example of a near-shore species. They used biomarker CYP1A, which is induced upon exposure to crude oil, to measure the continued impact. This biomarker was in higher abundance in the harlequin ducks, strongly suggesting that the oil continues to have an effect on the area where the disaster happened over 20 years ago.
This could mean that many years down the road, the Gulf of Mexico could still be seeing the effects of this oil disaster. The hope for me, I suppose, is that technology has improved enough over the past 20 years to have clean-up equipment that works more efficiently and effectively than it has in the past.
Click on first search result here for pdf of the Harlequin duck CYP1A paper.