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Study: BP Oil Spill May Damage Coral, Shipwrecks

February 24th, 2016

A recent study has shown that crude oil from the BP oil spill, as well as the chemical dispersants used to break up the oil, may have caused severe damage to underwater coral reefs and historic shipwrecks in the Gulf of Mexico. The study, which researchers presented at the American Geophysical Union’s Ocean Sciences conference in New Orleans, found that more than 770 square miles of underwater habitats were destroyed or damaged by the BP oil spill and chemical cleaning agents.

Details of the BP Oil Spill Study

The study examined the widespread effects the BP oil spill caused to sea life, as well as efforts to restore their habitats to pre-spill conditions. The report showed how organisms that dwell on the sea bottom were affected by the toxic hydrocarbons released in the BP oil spill. Researchers also examined the effect of the chemical dispersants used to break up the massive oil slicks. The environmental impacts of these chemicals included the destruction or reduction of numerous bottom-dwelling species across thousands of miles.

BP Oil Spill Study Cites Coral Reef Habitats

The study also analyzed the damage the BP oil spill inflicted on coral reefs and the fish that rely on them. The research focused on a four-mile stretch of coral reefs and the behavior patterns of the marine life that live in and around those reefs. These fish include grouper and red snapper, two species upon which many Gulf Coast fishermen rely for their livelihood. The report called for repairs to the coral reefs, including “placing oyster shell, limestone rubble or a mixture of both substrates” as a substitute for the reefs destroyed by the BP oil spill.

BP Oil Spill Study: Dispersants As Dangerous As Oil

Although the chemical dispersants used to to reduce the impact of the BP oil spill allowed for easier cleanup efforts, the recent study revealed how the ingredients in those dispersants could pose as much of a health hazard to ocean life as the oil itself. A researcher from Temple University in Philadelphia presented findings that showed that the combination of oil and dispersants altered the genetic code of at least two species of coral after the BP oil spill. These genetic changes have affected the coral’s ability to combat disease, heal from wounds and cope with overheating.

BP Oil Spill Study Reveals Shipwreck Damage

In addition to the environmental damage attributed to the BP oil spill, researchers voiced concerns about the damage to the hundreds of historical shipwrecks in the Gulf of Mexico. A scientist with George Mason University in Virginia told the conference that the effects of the BP oil spill could cause the shipwrecks to decay at an accelerated rate. The combination of oil and dispersants is believed to cause decay of the thin film of biological matter that protects sunken ships from rust and corrosion.

Source: NOLA.COM

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