Amy Dzera ClarkeHonors Conference Poster The Global impact of Toxic Oil Spills on Marine Life and Their HabitatsAbstract: There has been a significant amount of global attention focused on the British PetroleumDeep water Horizon oil spill in which nearly 200 million gallons of oil as well as dispersants hadspewed in to the Gulf of Mexico over a period of 87 days. Researchers are attempting to predictthe long term impacts that have been inflicted on various marine life and their habitats by usingvarious methodology. DNA Sampling results from previous disasters such as this one haveyielded disturbing evidence of mutations or adaptations in various marine creatures created tosustain life in a less than adequate environment. Hydrocarbons, lower oxygen levels, theblocking of sunlight to phytoplankton and many other barriers to marine life are frequently seenwith oil spills which facilitate the necessity of frequent inspections and stricter preventativeprocedures on oil rigs all around the world, especially due to the global increase of consumption. Global Oil Spills and the Oil Industry
The frequency and location of oil spills are perhaps irrelevant as even one spillcan cause enough damage to last decades and with an increase in consumption andrevenue many people believe that finding a resolution to the crisis is a huge obstacle toovercome. On average, India and China will consume 28 percent of global energy by2030; triple what they required in 1990 according to the U.S Department of Energy.China is set to surpass the United States in energy consumption by 2015. Although therecession appears to be diminishing, the demand for oil is rising rapidly. One monthpost Deep Horizon; the Australian government reaffirmed its commitment to oceandrilling, putting 31 offshore blocks up for bidding, 17 of them in deep water. Althoughthis may seem logical as demand is up many worry that developing countries are notready to handle major oil spills which could cause significant damage. In 2003, theworst environmental disaster in Pakistan’s history took place in which an oil tankercalled the Tasmanian Spirit grounded in a channel of Karachi Port carryingapproximately 67,535 tons of crude oil and started leaking from a 24 year old singlehull immediately upon impact. It impacted nearly 270 square kilometers of seabed and2,062 square kilometers of marine waters. The primary reason the spill was sodevastating was due to the fact that Pakistan lacked clearly defined strategies, properstaffing and financial resources. The costs of an oil spill can be categorized into, theenvironmental damages, socio-economic losses, clean up costs, research costs and otherexpenditures. Oil spills lead to degradation of natural resources and to decreases oftheir services in the aftermath of the incident and in order to calculate the value ofnatural resource, economists either link them indirectly to some market goods orobserved economic activities or construct directly a hypothetical market. What about
the party held accountable for the spill? Many people feel they go unpunished as theyare slapped on the wrist with fines that have no impact. Exxon in 2008 was fined 2.64million dollars which was under 1% of their profits in one quarter of the year for a spillin the Pacific.Americas Exxon Mobil remains the most profitable company, withincome last year of $45.2 billion. Oil spills are not only impacting the United States butare affecting us on a global level.
Global Oil Consumption and Production Consumption
2. The Crisis of Offshore Drilling and Oil Rigs Perhaps the most perplexing dilemmas are the regulations and inspections of the oil rigsinstituted for offshore drilling. In order to protect our natural resources there must be specificinspections and regulations on the oil rigs themselves. The current problem with this is thatinspectors are for the most part former oilfield workers without college degrees, have littleformal training and arent required to pass any certification tests; they are expected to learn theircraft by shadowing more experienced peers. They have almost no direct experience in thespecialized field of deep-water drilling, and, during offshore inspections, have no access totechnology more advanced than a pocket calculator. When mistakes are made and they fail aninspection they rarely result in a fine and if they do receive one it is minimal. Last year,inspectors wrote up 2,298 violations offshore, but only 87 were referred on for possible fines,according to an Interior Department report. The agency levied civil penalties in 20 cases lastyear, totaling $919,000 -- less than the cost of one days drilling aboard the Deepwater Horizon.Inspectors can shut down operations for safety reasons, which can cost energy companies farmore than the fines. The Obama administration has approved a permit to drill a new well in theshallow waters of the Gulf of Mexico, the first such clearance since new safety regulations wereput in place in response to the BP PLC oil spill.Oil reaching the shorelineSource: ITOPF
For more information: Leslie Eaton, Stephen Power, and Russell Gold. "Inspectors Adrift in Rig-Safety Push --- Outgunned by Industry and Outmatched by Job, Agency Lags.” Wall Street Journal 3 Dec. 2010, Eastern edition: Wall Street Journal, ProQuest. Web. 26 Dec. 2010. Siobhan Hughes. "The Gulf Oil Spill: Permit Granted to Drill In Shallow Gulf Waters.” Wall Street Journal 20 Jul 2010, Eastern edition: Wall Street Journal, ProQuest. Web. 26 Dec. 2010. The weathering process of an oil spill and Biodegradation The first weathering process to occur is that the oil begins to spread which is dependentonly on its viscosity and amount. It forms a layer across the top of the ocean waters initiallyimpacting sea birds and many other organisms on the top layer. Evaporation then begins to takeplace in an attempt to help to restore balance but is shortly replaced by the process ofemulsification. Emulsification begins to turn the water into a chocolate mousse like consistency,creating a devastating death trap for many of the fragile marine life as seen in picture 1.Following emulsification, dispersion and dissolution take place. Dispersion helps aids in theresolution of oil in the water by forming the oil into droplets as well as the process ofbiodegradation (where micro- organisms consume the oil and actually convert it into microbialcells, carbon dioxide(CO2) and water. Dispersion is typically separated into two phases. The first
dispersion is relatively unstable and the oil separates easily by the process of gravity however,the second phase, poses significant separation problems and the droplets float the surface as theyare now very light in weight, at a very slow rate. The increased surface area of the dispersed oilcan aid in the process of biodegradation. Frequently with oil spills, dispersants are used to aid inthis process and increase the rate of dispersion. Dissolution only accounts for a small amount ofoil loss but it’s still a very important component. “Dissolution is dependent on the compositionand state of the oil, and occurs most quickly when the oil is finely dispersed in the water column.Components that are most soluble in sea water are the light aromatic hydrocarbons compoundssuch as benzene and toluene. However, these compounds are also those first to be lost throughevaporation, a process which is 10 -100 times faster than dissolution. Oil contains only smallamounts of these compounds making dissolution one of the less important processes.”( ITOPF)Photo-oxidation which is a family of light-catalyzed reactions at the sea surface is a crucialprocess as is helps to reduce carbon in petroleum hydrocarbons. A hydrocarbon is an organiccompound that is made up of hydrogen and carbon and although there are several different typesof hydrocarbons the majority of hydrocarbons can be found in crude oil. Sedimentation begins tooccur next due to evaporation and the dissolution of hydrocarbons that brings an increase in thegravity of the oil and it sinks to the ocean floor. This is where a majority of the weathered oilwill appear.For more information:Xhelilaj, Ermal, Shkelqim sinanaj. The Behaviour and Effects of oil pollution into marineenvironment and oceans. “pomorstvo/Journal of Maritime Studies 24.1 (2010): 19-25/ AcademicSearch Complete. Ebsco. Web.26 Dec.2010
The Global Negative Impact of Oil Spills on Marine life According to NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association), 83 miles ofshoreline are affected by the most recent BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and they have severalhundred research transmitters inserted in various marine species to analyze the impact. As ofNovember 2010, an astounding 2,263 visibly oiled deceased birds, 2,079 visibly oiled live birds,18 visibly oiled deceased sea turtles and 456 oiled live turtles have been documented as well asdead and dying sea corals 1,400 meters below the surface. Obviously, one of the major concernsfollowing an oil spill is for the fragile marine life in our waters that have to directly cope with thedamage and are unable to escape to a more sustainable environment. The long -term impacts tothe marine life have been noted by researchers in which marine creatures have mutated oradapted under inadequate circumstances in order to avoid extinction. There are numerousnegative impacts to marine life following an oil spill. Many Severe reactions appear in macrofauna such as coral reefs, many species of fish and shellfish, zooplankton, seabirds as well asshore birds, and marine mammals such as sea otters and seals and turtles that breed on theshorelines. Mutations or adaptations, oxygen and CO2 (Carbon dioxide) levels, hydrocarbons,population and growth, food chains in the water affected, are all issues that are addressed afterand oil spill by researchers. In previous oil spills, coral growth has declined and with the fragilecoral reefs near the Gulf of Mexico, so many researchers will be paying close attention this aswell as many other species. One of the primary negative impacts that occur shortly after oil isreleased in the sea water is the arrival of the toxicity of the oil itself. The oil enters into manyvarious marine creatures, coats numerous feathers of sea and shore birds and shortly after cleanthemselves and end up ingesting the toxic oil. Hypothermia is commonly seen in various birdsafter and oil spill due to the loss in body heat. The oil can also enter into smaller marine creaturessuch as crabs, plankton and bottom dwellers which are severely affected and it travels up the
food chain effecting one species after another ,similar to a domino effect. The Exxon Valdezspill took four summers to clean up and after ten years species such as the harbor seal, killerwhale, common loon and harlequin duck still have not recovered and all due to the surfacetoxicity of oil. A severe impact to marine life below the surface involves hydrocarbons, oxygenand CO2 levels. Dispersants are commonly used to help to break down the compound of oilhowever; they pose significant risks to marine life. Poly-aromatic hydrocarbons are more toxicthan saturated hydrocarbons. These poly-aromatic hydrocarbons have been documented afterdisasters such as Erika and Sea Empress to cause genetic anomalies in mollusks, plankton, andcrustaceans and various other species. As seen in the table below, following the Valdez oil spill,species were consequently impacted.Picture 1"A bird was found dead in a pool of oil on East Grand Terre Island, Louisiana, onSunday, June 6, 2010. (Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times/MCT)." (2010): Image Collection.EBSCO. Web. 26 Dec. 201
Source: R. T. Paine, Jennifer L. Ruesink, Adrian Sun, Elaine L. Soulanille, Marjorie J.Wonham, Christopher D. G. Harley, Daniel R. Brumbaugh and David L. Secord. Annual Reviewof Ecology and Systematics. Trouble on Oiled Waters: Lessons from the Exxon Valdez Oil SpillVol. 27, 1996.Page  of 197-235 The Global negative impact of Oil Spills on Habitats Impacts to the various coastal habitats as well as ocean habitats are very harsh. Followingan oil spill there is loss of food for marine species, displaced marine life and damages to themarshes and mangroves caused by oil droplets and sedimentation. As plankton and other small
marine creatures begin ingesting the toxic oil droplets left behind, they become sick and thiscontinues up the food chain. When hydrocarbons are ingested they cause genotoxic damage toliver cells. The species in the ocean are dependent upon one another so when one part of the foodchain is impacted and dies it trickles up the food chain and can cause a species to go withoutfood and possibly extinct. Many marine creatures have specific habitats that are essential to theirsurvival and instead of relocating; they remain in the toxic environment. Perhaps the most visualis the damage that occurs to our shorelines, wetlands and marshes. Although preventativemeasures such as booms are used to prevent oil in reaching our shorelines it still manages to findits way. When this occurs the oil begins to settle into the layers of sand in which many sea turtlesmake their nest as well as various other species, creating a toxic environment. Unfortunately notonly does the oil reach the shoreline but also the dispersants that are used to aid in the cleanup ofan oil spill. Dispersants contain many harmful chemicals to the environment but they do appearto aid in clean up. When dispersants combine with sedimentation it creates a long lasting toxiclayer on the shoreline. Just recently, sedimentation was found off the shore of Louisiana. A bighard block and when cracked open you could still smell petroleum. Oil spills also change thestructure of microbial communities and they become dominant and deplete the ocean waters ofoxygen which results in death for species dependent on oxygen. In mangroves, this is especiallydamaging as microbial organisms play a crucial role in dinitrogen fixation which is necessary fororganic matter mineralization including biodegradation. Mangroves suffer asphyxiation and thisoil spill will affect animals that inhabit them as well.
A salt marsh impacted by an oil spill before (left) and after (right) replanting Source: ITOPFFor more information: M. S. Goñi Urriza, Ph.D., and R. Duran, Ph.D., The Gulf Oil Spill: We Have Been Here Before. Can We Learn From the Past? Journal of Cosmology, 2010, Vol. 8, 2026- 2028. JournalofCosmology.com, June, 2010. Equipe Environnement et Microbiologie – UMR CNRS IPREM 5254, Université de Pau et des Pays de L’Adour BP1155 - 64013 Pau cedex, France
Evidence of the past and Predicting the outcome of oil spills The most important thing we can do is to learn from previous disasters in how to analyzethe damage and move forward toward the restoration phase. Although there have been a lot of oilspills it is still very difficult to predict exactly the outcome, such as; which species or habitatswill be affected the worst? The most recent oil spill in the Gulf is the worst oil spill in historyand judging from past spills it will take decades for our fragile ecosystems to recover. There area particular few that I will reference here such as the Ixtoc, Valdez and the most current BP oilspill in the Gulf of Mexico. There has been significant documented evidence in the past ofmutations and adaptations following an oil spill.Marine and land Species affected by the Exxon Valdez Oil SpillPLEASE OMIT IT CAN’T BE TURNED AROUND(Can the following picture be turned around?)
Technology and methodology used in sampling and analysis Researchers use various tools and methodology to obtain samples and analysis whichconsists of a particular process and time frame. Fortunately the tools and methodology that areused to analyze damage and in particular species that have been affected have come a long wayand there are many new technological devices that scientists will use in obtaining data regardingthe BP oil spill. The first step to restoration is the pre-assessment phase. In this phase researchersuse data and mathematical models to assess the extent or severity of the impact. The next phasedependent on whether there will be damage, is called the injury assessment phase whereresearchers conduct economic and scientific studies to formulate a restoration plan. Followingrestoration planning the next phase consists of putting their plan into action and continuallymonitoring it to ensure its success. Possible restorations may include replantingmarshes/wetlands, reinventing oyster reefs or restoring commercial fishing sites. Onceresearchers establish the required information they need to focus on they can go into the field andconduct sampling, insert probes into marine species for monitoring, conduct gaschromatography/mass spectrometry fingerprint analysis to analyze the process of oil degradationas well as various other methods. The newest technology is the trajectory model which actuallytracks the spread and dispersion of the oil to enable scientists to properly diagnose which habitatsand species could be impacted.
Spectrophotometric Elemental Analysis SystemThe SEAS II sensor is a highly sensitive in-situ sensor capable of nanomolar level detection ofnutrients and trace metals based on liquid core waveguide technology. (Callahan Michael R,Kaltenbacher Eric A et al. 2002). This sensor utilizes well characterized chemistries to analyze avariety of analytes, including nitrate, nitrite, phosphorous, phosphate, CO2, pH and iron. TheSpectrophometric Elemental Analysis System ( SEAS ) utilizes long pathlength absorbancespectrometry ( LPAS ) combined with colorimetric protocols to achieve the sensitivity requiredto measure analytes at nanomolar concentration levels.The SEAS II sensor has incorporated variable chemistry programming capability and support formultiple connected instruments, such as a CTD, fluorometer, and a photosynthetically activeradiation ( PAR ) sensor. The allows for highly flexible implementation of measurementchemistries for wide range of analytes and inclusion of external sensor data into the SEAS IIdata.
Roques, D. E., E. B. Overton, and C. B. Henry. "Using gas chromatography/mass spectroscopyfingerprint analyses to document process and progress of oil degradation." Journal ofEnvironmental Quality 23 (1994): 851-5. Applied Science Full Text. Web. 27 Jan. 2011.The Multi-parameter Inorganic Carbon Analyzer (MICA) developed in the College of MarineScience is an autonomous multi-parameter flow-through CO2 system capable of simultaneouslymeasuring pH, carbon dioxide fugacity (fCO2), atmospheric carbon dioxide partial pressure(pCO2), and the total dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC) of natural waterSource: (USF) College of Marine ScienceProject TeamRobert H. Byrne, project leadSherwood Liu, method development and testingEric A. Kaltenbacher, instrument designJim Patten, software
Conclusion: So what have we learned? We have learned that in the world that we live in and theglobal increase in consumption , unless alternative fuels and proper inspections and regulationson oil rigs are utilized globally there will be more oil spills. In order to counteract the devastatingdamages to our beautiful ecosystems we must have more funding and conduct extensive researchon the populations in these ecosystems and create more awareness and volunteerism. Manypeople are needed to aid in various ways with many different organizations. But above all,globally we need to become producers and less consumers. Acknowledgments: A sincere thank you to: Ms. Kendra Daly at the University of South Florida, College of Marine Science whoprovided information on previous environmental disasters and plankton research as well as BillHogarth, Dean of the USF College of Marine Science, Ernst Peebles, Chad Mairn at the St.Petersburg College and everyone else who helped me to obtain adequate resources for thisproject.
Where can I find out more information on the most recent BP Oil Spill? There are manyorganizations involved in the most recent BP oil spill. The University of South Florida, Collegeof Marine Science, The National Oceanic Atmospheric Association. To find more organizationsgoogle: Bp Oil SpillWhat can I do to help?Take time to care… Volunteer at your local marine aquarium, aid in coastal clean-ups, donate tomarine life organizations and research facilities.Who do I contact if I find and injured or sick marine creature?If you find and injured or sick marine creature, sea or shore bird, damage or decaying mangroveyou should contact your local Audubon society or marine aquarium to find out what you can doto help.