(Article for Environment Awareness magazine)
Oil slicks do so much more damage than just the initial havoc we see on the news; the effects can be long lasting. The recent Deep water BP oil leak disaster in the Gulf of Mexico well and truly eclipsed the Exxon Valdez oil spill of 1989 and now has the potential of being one of the largest oil spills on record. Latest official estimates state approximately 4.1 million barrels of oil contaminated the ocean. While oil is spilled or leaked into waterways and the ocean, it spreads very quickly with the help of wind and currents. A single gallon of oil can create an oil slick up to a couple of acres size! The BP oil slick had spread over 580 square miles in just three days. When oil starts mixing in water, it can change composition and becomes what’s known as “mousse”. This is a sticky substance that clings even more to whatever it comes in contact with. Many marine animals don’t know to avoid a slick and some fish may even be attracted to it as it can resemble food. Some of the many effects on animals coming into with crude oil include: -Hypothermia and drowning of birds as the oil breaks down the insulating capabilities of feathers, makes them heavier and negates flying ability -Hypothermia in some seal pups as the oil destroys the insulating fur -If oil is ingested, it can poison the animal outright, make them extremely sick or create a level of toxins in their system that then causes poisoning further up the food chain. Birds and other animals often ingest oil when trying to clean them. Shellfish and corals are particularly at risk in these scenarios as they cannot escape from an oil slick. -Damage to animal immune systems
-interruption of breeding and fouling of breeding grounds
-Thinner bird and turtle egg shells and also damage to fish larvae, causing deformities -Damage to sea grass beds and other feeding areas
-Damaging of algae, which perform a...