Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

One year later, oil spill’s impact on Gulf not fully understood

Date:
April 19, 2011
Source:
Cornell University
Summary:
One year after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill began on April 20, 2010, two experts comment on the known and unknown impacts to wildlife -- in the air, on the land and in the sea.

Pelican covered in oil after the Gulf oil spill.
Credit: Image courtesy of Cornell University

One year after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill began on April 20, 2010, two Cornell experts comment on the known and unknown impacts to wildlife -- in the air, on the land and in the sea.

Related Articles


John Fitzpatrick, director of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, comments on the spill's effect on birds and the need to restore ecosystems.

Fitzpatrick says: "The oil did not cause the catastrophic mortality of birds that we might have seen had the winds and tides carried oil into all the major islands where colonies of birds raise their young. Thousands of birds were heavily oiled, and we know now that probably tens of thousands more were affected by smaller amounts of oil that couldn't be seen from a distance but were visible in the high-definition video footage acquired by the Lab's video crews.

"At the breeding colonies where our crews worked, nearly all the young birds and a huge proportion of the adults had at least some oil on them. Even these small amounts of oil can be harmful. The oil can be ingested, it can ruin the waterproofing and insulation properties of feathers, and can cause birds to spend energy cleaning their feathers at the expense of finding food or caring for young. These health effects couldn't be measured, of course, so we won't ever really know the total mortality from this spill.

"Looking ahead, we have to ask how many more additional problems that birds and our natural ecosystems can endure. We have to commit ourselves to preventing any recurrence of such a calamity, because next time we might not get this lucky. True recovery means not only responding to the spill, but fundamentally changing the way we do business in such resource-rich areas. We need to restore long-term ecosystem functions to the spectacular ecosystems of the Gulf Coast and the Mississippi Delta, because these functions are essential for people as well as for one of America's richest concentrations of wildlife."

Scientist Christopher W. Clark, an expert on whales and bioacoustics and director of the Bioacoustics Research Program at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, comments on studies of marine life after the spill.

Clark says: "Despite the proximity of the Gulf of Mexico to the coast, we have a very poor understanding of its marine life and ecosystem. In the ocean, one of the best ways to study whales and fishes is by listening for them -- something that our Bioacoustics Research Program has been doing for more than 30 years. Last summer after the oil spill, our researchers worked with NOAA to deploy 21 underwater recording devices on the Gulf seafloor from Louisiana to South Florida.

"By the middle of July, these units were in position and recording the sounds of sperm whales, Bryde's whales, pilot whales and dolphins. Some units recorded sperm whales calling 24 hours a day, every day. Others near the Florida panhandle recorded up to 20,000 vocalizations suspected to be of Bryde's whales, a very poorly studied species thought to number only 15 to 40 individuals in Gulf waters.

"The data are now being compared to maps of the oil's spread across the Gulf of Mexico to find out if whales altered their behavior in response to the oil-covered water. Our scientists will present their findings to NOAA in an interim report on May 11. The recording units remained underwater for five months after which we replaced them with new units to continue recording. Monitoring will continue through at least this summer, and we hope to find support to continue monitoring for the next several years to understand the effects of the spill."

A video with footage of the breeding bird colonies affected by the oil and a video about restoring the Mississippi River Delta are available at www.birds.cornell.edu/spill


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Cornell University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Cornell University. "One year later, oil spill’s impact on Gulf not fully understood." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 April 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110419161428.htm>.
Cornell University. (2011, April 19). One year later, oil spill’s impact on Gulf not fully understood. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 5, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110419161428.htm
Cornell University. "One year later, oil spill’s impact on Gulf not fully understood." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110419161428.htm (accessed March 5, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Earth & Climate News

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Tourists Visit Rare Grey Whales in Mexico

Raw: Tourists Visit Rare Grey Whales in Mexico

AP (Mar. 4, 2015) Once nearly extinct, grey whales now migrate in their thousands to Mexico&apos;s Vizcaino reserve in Baja California, in search of warmer waters to mate and give birth. Tourists flock to the reserve to see the whales, measuring up to 49 feet long. (March 4) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Injured Miners Treated After Blast

Raw: Injured Miners Treated After Blast

AP (Mar. 4, 2015) An explosion ripped through a coal mine before dawn Wednesday in war-torn eastern Ukraine, killing at least one miner, officials said. Graphic video of injured miners being treated in a Donetsk hospital. (March 4) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Australian Museum Shares Terrifying Goblin Shark With the World

Australian Museum Shares Terrifying Goblin Shark With the World

Buzz60 (Mar. 4, 2015) The Australian Museum has taken in its fourth-ever goblin shark, a rare fish with an electricity-sensing snout and &apos;alien-like&apos; jaw. Mike Janela (@mikejanela) takes a look. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Chile's Villaricca Volcano Calm, Red Alert Remains

Chile's Villaricca Volcano Calm, Red Alert Remains

AFP (Mar. 4, 2015) A red alert continues in the area around southern Chile&apos;s Villarrica volcano, though activity dropped since its eruption overnight on Monday. Duration: 00:40 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins