A growing body of research suggests that the impact of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill may have been far worse than previously believed, Peter Beaumont at the Guardian reports. The spill, called “the worst environmental disaster America has ever faced” by President Barack Obama, released roughly five million barrels of crude into the Gulf over three months back in 2010.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), more than 675 dolphins have been stranded in the northern Gulf of Mexico since February 2010 – a much higher rate than the usual average of 74 dolphins per year — which prompted the NOAA to declare an Unusual Mortality Event and begin an investigation.
From The Guardian:
The report… found that many of the 32 dolphins studied were underweight, anemic and suffering from lung and liver disease, while nearly half had low levels of a hormone that helps the mammals deal with stress as well as regulating their metabolism and immune systems.
The dolphin study is part of the Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA), the process for studying the effects of the Deepwater Horizon spill.
Another ongoing study by Linda Hooper-Bui at Louisiana St. University found that several populations of insects and spiders are still not recovering from the spill. She has been studying insect populations at certain sites since 2009 and collected insects at 45 sites about 25 times last year.
She has found that there was a large drop in numbers immediately after the oil spill and that some kinds of insects and spiders are still far less numerous than in 2009.
Another recent study of deep ocean corrals seven miles from the spill source found dead and dying corals coated in “brown gunk” that was attributed to the Deepwater Horizon well after a chemical analysis.
The research, jointly funded by the NOAA and BP, noted that deepwater corals are not usually affected in oil spills but the depth and temperatures in the Deepwater Horizon spill seems to have created plumes of oil particles that have caused unprecedented damage.
Yet another study confirmed that zooplankton – the microscopic organisms at the bottom of the ocean food chain – have also been contaminated with oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill.
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