What are some likely effects on the coastal ecosystem from the gulf oil spill?

Additionally, what about that region’s economy? Isn’t this the same location that was devastated by Katrina?



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    Oil spills have devastating effects on the coastal ecosystems.  Oil spreads in a thin layer on top of the water and can affect small organisms such as algae or plankton which larger organisms feed on.  This in turn can work its way up through the food chain, killing some smaller animals and even allowing some humans to possibly eat contaminated marine life.  For mammals and birds, the contact of oil with their fur or feathers destroys the insulating capabilities and results in deaths due to hypothermia.  Animals who try to clean themselves ingest a lot of oil and can either be immediately killed or poisoned.

    As far as the economy, it is hard to say.  When an oil spil occurs it likely hurts tourism, and many people may not be working while the oil rig is being repaired or the spill is being cleaned up, possibly causing a loss of wages.  You are right, this will affect the same location that was hit hard by Katrina, in the second citation I will post you can see a satellite image of the oil slick that is migrating toward New Orleans.

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    Also because this is both nesting and migration season for many species of birds, there is likely to be an effect on the avian population.  Particuarly on those nesting birds which nest on the ground in estuaries, whose newly hatched babies will be particularly susceptible to the oil washing into the estuaries on high tide.

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    The Gulf of Mexico is a significant ocean resource.  It contains 8 of the top 20 ports and estimated fish and shellfish industries are worth $661 million, providing food and livelihood to many.  It is one of only two bluefin tuna hatcheries, and it is currently spawning season for the endangered fish.  It is home to 59% of oysters and about 75% of wild shrimp caught in the US.  Sensitive areas such as New Orleans are still at risk or recovering from natural disaster damage that impacted the area’s economic support system.  The hypoxic ‘dead zone’ already apparent in the Gulf has long foretold of fishery damage from human activity.  Now, the oil slick is about to contact the Louisiana coastline, killing not only the fish, but their young and their eggs.  It is peak nesting season, so birds are in high concentration.  The water current could pull the oil all the way to the Florida coast, and the wildlife can’t be warned.  Some of the species at greatest risk according to a recent list are the Bluefin Tuna, sea turtles, marine mammals such as whales and dolphins, sharks, shellfish, sea birds and even migrating songbirds.  Many of the species are already at risk or are depended upon by the ecosystem and the human population.  Oil spills throughout history have been known to have lasting and dramatic effects that touch even those far from the coast.

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    Wind also plays an important role in driving the oil spill, either towards Louisiana or to open seas. In the first case, social damages will sum to environmental damages. British Petroleum, the company that owned the oil will be responsible for the clean-up, for which it has already allocated 100 million dollars. In any case, it is unlikely that they will be able to restore the status quo ante.

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