Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Oil Spills Can Disrupt Entire Aquatic Food Web, New Study Shows

Animals
Oil Spills Can Disrupt Entire Aquatic Food Web, New Study Shows
BP oil spill led to baby dolphin deaths and diseases along the Gulf Coast. Truth Wire

From dead fish to beaches covered in sludge, the immediate damage from an oil spill is easy to see.

But a new study, published this week in the journal Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology (AECT), found that the damage caused by these spills are much wider in scope and can indirectly disrupt the entire aquatic food web.


The 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which released 134 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, killed thousands of marine mammals and contaminated their habitats.

But researchers in the AECT study found that the mass mortalities also led to a dramatic spike in forage fish populations such as menhaden in the years after the blowout.

Menhaden are tiny fish that are prey to a wide range of marine predators such as larger fish, birds and cetaceans such as fin whales and dolphins. With many of their predators gone, these tiny fish were able to quickly multiply.

According to the study, "these releases from predation led to an increase of Gulf menhaden biomass in 2011 to 2.4 million t, or more than twice the average biomass of 1.1 million t for the decade prior to 2010."

"Our discovery suggests that the structure of food webs change after an oil spill, which may be much more damaging to fish and other aquatic fauna than the direct impacts of the spilled oil itself," explained lead researcher Jeffrey Short.

The new analysis "underscores the need to study not just those species obviously affected, but also the entire food web, during oil spill assessments," a press release for the study states.

"While the direct effects of oil spills on ecosystems have been well documented, this new study following the Deepwater Horizon blowout in 2011 provides the first indication that oil spills can alter the nature of entire aquatic food webs," said Peter S. Ross, editor-in-chief of AECT.

Cyclone Gati on Sunday had sustained winds of 115 miles per hour. NASA - EOSDIS Worldview

Cyclone Gati made landfall in Somalia Sunday as the equivalent of a Category 2 hurricane, the first time that a hurricane-strength storm has made landfall in the East African country, NPR reported.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

An aerial view shows pumpjacks in the South Belridge Oil Field on April 24, 2020 near McKittrick, California. David McNew / Getty Images

By Julia Conley

A new campaign unveiled this weekend by the nonprofit organization Fossil Free Media aims to expand on the goals of the fossil fuel divestment movement, cutting into oil and gas companies' profit margins through their public relations and ad campaigns.

Read More Show Less

Trending

martin-dm / E+ / Getty Images

By Jason Farley

COVID-19 has disrupted our daily lives, and it is poised to completely disrupt the holiday season. As people make holiday plans and think about ways to reduce the risks to their loved ones, a strategy is essential.

Read More Show Less
Key West voters have passed three ballot initiatives to limit the impact of visiting cruise ships on island life and fragile marine habitats. felixmizioznikov / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Despite being a well-known port of call on the Caribbean cruise circuit, the City of Key West voted to ban large cruise ships from visiting and to restrict foot traffic from vessels. Supporters and opponents disagreed about the safety, environmental and economic merits of the proposals.

Read More Show Less
Wind turbines are seen in Palm Springs, California. Mint Images / Getty Images

By Tara Lohan

How much of U.S. energy demand could be met by renewable sources?

According to a new report from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, the answer is an easy 100%.

Read More Show Less