Effects of Oil Spill on Wildlife and Habitat



In 2010, The Deepwater Horizon which occurred in the Gulf of Mexico was the biggest oil spill recorded in history. It left huge footprints on the environment. In late 2015 , the federal government released a report which entails an in-depth study, the report is known as the Programmatic Damage Assessment and Restoration plan .

The Oil spill impacted several animals , a large amount of the 21 species of dolphins and whales demonstrated injuries to some extent. The number of Bottlenose dolphins in Barataria Bay and the  Mississippi Sound , two places that were specifically affected by the oil spill ,are expected to decline by half their population, studies determined that injuries to the dolphins were as a result of the oil spill. Another says that the Spinner dolphin (another species of dolphin) would take approximately over one hundred years for it’s numbers to recover.

Scientists estimated that approximately 167,000 sea turtles were killed during the disaster, heavy oil affected quarter of the Sargassum (a type of floating seaweed) in the northern Gulf. Sargassum is plays an instrumental role in the life of a turtle since it is an important habitat for juvenile turtles.

Oil is toxic to many species of larval which causes deformation and death, the federal study estimates that between two-five million larval fish died during the oil spill. In 2011 high yields of fish that has been caught showed that they had oil in their livers, rotting fins and unusual lesions.

Oil can destroy the insulating ability of fur bearing animals, such as sea otters and water repellency of bird’s feathers, this in turn exposes these organisms to harsh elements. Birds and mammals that no longer has the ability to repel water and insulate cold water can die from hypothermia. Many birds and animals also ingest oil  whilst trying to clean theirself  which is extremely toxic to their health. When fishes come into contact with oil , it can have various impacts such as , reduced growth, enlarged livers , changes in heart and respiration rates, reproduction impairment and fin erosion, they also kill eggs and larval survival.

At least 93 species of birds  were exposed to oil, the loss of these birds would have a harmful effect on food webs in the Gulf and the ecosystem in general. Scientists predict that habitats at the bottom of the Gulf’s floor could take anywhere from a couple decades to one hundred years to fully recover. A large portion of the habitats in the Gulf floor were affected, an estimated 1,200 square miles (significant amounts of oil were deposited on the ocean’s floor). The oil spill also caused coastal erosion, oil and response efforts killed as many as 8.3 billion oysters, this mass loss have put the sustainability of oysters in the Gulf of Mexico. Oil Spills indeed has drastic effects on wildlife and their habitat.

For more reading on the effects oil spills on wildlife and habitat please check out http://www.nwf.org/What-We-Do/Protect-Habitat/Gulf-Restoration/Oil-Spill.aspx and http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/oilimpacts.html.

Please come back next week for more interesting information on Oil Spills !


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