Research in the Gulf of Mexico on the effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill Margo Moss Environmental Analyst Tierra Resources P: 504-319-1575 E: email@example.com
Background Team: This project is a partnership between Tulane University Center for Public Service, the Gulf Restoration Network & Tierra Resources LLC. Our team includes Dr. Jordan Karubian (PI), Dr. Sarah Mack, Dr. Susan Longest, and Margo Moss Mission: To complete an analysis of fragmented research, coordinated between the academic community and the GRN that will identify potentially sensitive Gulf species and identify gaps and needs in current research activities. We will provide recommendations based on areas in need of additional attention, thereby ensuring effective use of funds and effort in the future. Timeline: Currently in progress, the final findings will be published for the 1 year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, on April, 20th 2011. Today’s proceedings represent an overview of work completed to date, as well as future direction and obstacles.
Outline • Areas effected by the spill • General concerns and toxic effects of oil contamination • Why is studying oil impacts important? • Research types • Selected environmental themes • Future direction • Obstacles • Parting thoughts and discussion • Questions
Oil Spill Landfall, New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2010/05/27/us/20100527-oil-landfall.html Extant & Extent of oil ~4.9 million barrels crude oil released Oil removed from the Gulf was recovered, skimmed, burned, naturally dispersed, evaporated, dissolved by bacteria or chemically dispersed As of August, the government estimates 1,253,839 barrels of oil remain in the Gulf Surface oil, subsurface oil & oil mixed with sediment NOAA Deepwater Horizon MC252 Gulf Incident Oil Budget. http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2010/PDFs/DeepwaterHorizonOilBudget20100801.pdf
Marine Habitat Types in the Gulf of Mexico http://sero.nmfs.noaa.gov/hcd/pdfs/efhdocs/gom_efhhapc_poster.pdf
Coastal Bird Habitat http://gomex.erma.noaa.gov/erma.html#x=90.35156&y=28.05259&z=6&layers=395+417+372+384+484
Why bother? • Impacts from the Exxon Valdez spill are still being seen 20+ years after the event • Residual population level impacts • Important to have comprehensive independent research to collaborate or contradict BP claims • Gulf of Mexico has many ecologically and economically important species • Several of which are endangered • We don’t have a good understanding of how the spill will impact population dynamics • Unless we can gain a holistic understanding of the effects, we will be unable to mitigate negative consequences • This could occur because of poor recruitment and fishing pressure (shrimp, blue crabs, finfish) • Or inability to determine causes of population declines (Sea turtles, coastal birds)
Research Types Activity Environmental Themes Coastal & nearshore habitats Offshore habitats Dispersants Toxicology Impact on life stages of aquatic animals Ecosystem and community structure Restoration Trophic dynamics and food webs Ecosystem health & indicators Oil spill modeling & tracking Seafood safety Human health Research Restoration Monitoring *Please note the research presented here characterizes findings to date and does not represent a complete listing
Coastal & NearshoreHabitats • The Gulf of Mexico coastal areas have more than half of the coastal wetlands within the lower 48 states • The effect of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on coastal erosion will be determined by how much oil reaches these habitats, and how long it stays there. A lot of oil resting on vegetated coastal shorelines could cause the vegetation to become stressed and die; this could cause the roots to die, weakening marsh soils. Weakened marsh soils would then be at risk of accelerated erosion from waves and storms. • Many species rely on coastal environments at some point in their life cycle, many of which are at risk. • Although coastal areas are vital for fish species and protection of human life and property ashore, the Gulf of Mexico has been losing coastal land at a very high rate over the last 50 years.
Coastal & NearshoreHabitats Economically important species Endangered and threatened species Shrimp In particular brown shrimp postlarvae which will be migrating out of inshore waters from February to April, while white shrimp will begin migration in May and continue through November. The spill could have impacts not only on shrimp catches this year, but also next year if postlarvae mortality is high. Blue crab The most economically valuable crab species in the region occurs almost exclusively in state waters with peak spawning occurring in August-September. Eggs and larvae develop and settle in the estuaries until crabs reach harvestable size in April-May. Also a preferred food of the endangered Atlantic Ridley sea turtle Oysters Fisheries 97% (by weight) of the commercial fish and shellfish landings from the Gulf of Mexico are species that depend on estuaries and their wetlands. Many fish species rely on coastal and nearshore habitats as nurseries. Loggerhead sea turtle, green sea turtle, Kemp’s ridey sea turtle, Hawksbill seaturtle Smalltooth sawfish, Gulf sturgeon Elkhorn coral, staghorncoral Brown pelican Sand tiger shark (species of concern) Nassau grouper (species of concern) Alambama shad (species of concern) Largetooth sawfish (species of concern) Saltmarsh topminnow (species of concern) Opossum pipefish (species of concern)
Coastal & Nearshore Habitat Research • Stressors on wetlands • Manatee monitoring and distribution • Manatee habitat and food supply • The effects of species diversity, consumer pressure, and bioremediation on salt marsh recovery from oil • Ecosystem structure and function in AL waters • Composition of Dissolved organic matter in LA salt marshes • Oyster reefs • Bird populations in MI coastal marshes • Bottlenose dolphin populations in west FL • Florida coastal everglades • Wetlands research and monitoring • Baseline plankton assessment within seagrass beds of the Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve • Fish communities • Fate and transport of oil • Critical fish nursery habitats • Sedimentary biogeochemical cycles especially nitrogen • Microbial community structure • Pelagic food web • Effects of oil, dispersant & methane on food webs • Ecosystem structure • Coastal ecosystems • Carbon services modeling • Monitoring • Water quality • Movement and recruitment of fish • Microbial degradation • Blue crab recruitment • Baseline fishes, crabs and shrimps • Marsh fish in at risk habitats • Critical fish nursery habitats • Combined effects with hypoxia in the Gulf • Hurricanes • Submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) distribution, composition and biomass sampling • Microbial communities and composition
Offshore Habitats Endangered and threatened species Research Leatherback sea turtle Sperm whales Dusky sharks (species of concern) Night sharks (species of concern) Warswa grouper (species of concern) Speckled hind (species of concern) Bluefin Tuna Fishes, crabs and shrimp Meiofauna, small benthic invertebrates Offshore microbial communities Macroalgae and macrocrustaceans Water and sediment toxicity Coastal food webs Marine snow and sedimentation Benthic organisms and Deepwaterfish assemblages Deep sea coral and deep reef habitats Oil exposure on genetic mechanisms of fish development Subsea plumes Tracking and modeling oil extent and transport Movement and recruitment of fish
Dispersants • Two EPA approved dispersants, Corexit 9500 and 9527A, have been used extensively in the Gulf • Dispersants are used in the Gulf to break down crude oil slicks • The toxic effects of dispersants vary greatly depending on type of dispersant, method of application, mixture with oil, duration of exposure, type of organism and other variables • While dispersants are relatively nontoxic alone, mixing with a toxic substance can make that substance more bioavailable
Dispersants Research • Impact and ecosystem assessment • Photodegredation of dispersants • Acute toxicity to various Gulf killfish life stages • Effect on juvenile blue crabs • Effect on blue crab spawning & recruitment • Impact on pelagic food web structure and organic matter cycling (AL) • Effect on ecosystem structure and function (AL) • Impact on coastal environments (LA) • Impact on coastal and marine Gulf ecosystems • Shelf-edge habitats engineered by fishery species • Transport, fate and impacts • Data sampling and modeling • In-situ tracking and aging in seawater • Oil emulsions • Integrated assessment • Satellite monitoring • Habitats and fisheries • Oil plum modeling • Diversity of macroalgae and macrocrustaceans inhabiting deepwater hard banks
Toxicology Research • Impact and ecosystem assessment • Effects of remediation on oil spill bioaccumulation, disposition, toxicity and gene expression in developing fish • Immunological assessment of fish in the Gulf • Oiled sea turtle rehabilitation • Species diversity, consumer pressure, and bioremediation on salt marsh recovery • Effect of dispersants on juvenile blue crabs • Effect on blue crab spawning & recruitment • Effect on marsh fish in at-risk habitats • Acute toxicity of anionic surfactant dioctyl sodium sulfosuccinate to various Gulf killfish life stages • Baseline assessment of estuarine macroinvertebrates within Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve • Diversity of macroalgae and macrocrustaceans inhabiting deepwater hard banks • Water and sediment toxicity assessment • Effect on nursery role of coastal marshes
Impact on Life Stages of Aquatic Animals Research • Immunological assessment of fish • Manatee aerial monitoring • Manatee distribution (AL & MI) • Manatee habitat and food supply • Mapping and modeling to quantify hypoxia and oil effects on living resources • Coastal sport fish studies (MI) • Ecosystem structure and function in marine waters (AL) • Acute toxicity of anionic surfactant dioctyl sodium sulfosuccinate to various Gulf killfish life stages • Effect of dispersants on juvenile blue crabs • Effect on blue crab spawning & recruitment • Diamondback terrapin nesting beach survey (MI) • Baseline assessment of estuarine macroinvertebrates within Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve • Baseline assessment of plankton and seagrass beds within Grand Bay • National Estuarine Research Reserve • Baseline assessment of sediment and benthic communities within Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve • Fish communities of nearshore habitats within Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve • Effect on marsh fish in at-risk habitats • Modeling impacts on West Florida Shelf fisheries • Reef fish community structure and dynamics (FL) • Deepwater water assemblages associated with DeSoto Canyon • Sampling of fishes (adults, juveniles, larvae) ichthyoplankton, zooplankton and water quality in Mobile-Tensaw Delta • Diversity of macroalgae and macrocrustaceans inhabiting deepwater hard banks • Deepsea coral and deep reef habitats • Crude oil exposure on genetic mechanisms of fish development
Ecosystem Health & Indicators Ecosystem indicator is an organism or community of organisms that is used to assess the health of an ecosystem as a whole. • Monitoring the health of a limited study system, indicative of the health of the whole system, is useful when considering complex ecosystems. Ecosystem health is the symptoms of an ecosystem's pending loss of carrying capacity, its ability to perform nature's services, or a pending ecocide, due to cumulative causes such as pollution
Ecosystem Health & Indicators Research • Effects on oyster resources • Effects on critical habitat, oyster reefs and associated species (FL) • Submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) surveys and sampling • Tracing intrusion on coastal foodwebs with natural abundance radiocarbon (14C) • Modeling carbon services • Effect on composition of dissolved organic matter in coastal marshes (LA) • Integrated assessment • Baseline assessment of bird populations in MI coastal marshes • Baseline elevation and function of Gulf Coast baldcypress swamps • Effect on FL coastal everglades • Baseline assessment of plankton and seagrass beds within Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve • Baseline assessment of sediment and benthic communities within Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve • Baseline assessment of estuarine macroinvertebrates within Grand Bay • National Estuarine Research Reserve • Impacts on estuarine bottlenose dolphin population (FL) • Effects on metal and nutrient distributions • Relationship between bioturbation rates, infaunal abundance and oil distribution and degradation • Satellite monitoring • Framework to assist coordination of research in multiple levels of coastal ecosystems • Surveys and photomonitoring • Long term water quality assessment • 4-D remote sensing system • Effect on fish movement and recruitment • Monitoring processes, habitats, and fisheries in the Pontchartrain Basin • Plume modeling for environmental impact assessment and mitigation • Characterization of subsurface oil on the Gordon Gunter • Biodegradation of oil and passive remediation strategies • Associated chemical effects • Microbial community structure and function
Future Direction • For the completion of the research partnership, we aim to identify areas of overlap and, perhaps more importantly, gaps in the multitude of monitoring and research efforts currently underway. • This work will help to coordinate on-going and future research while indicating areas of under-implementation. In the short term, gaps in knowledge could lead to a deficient representation of the oil spill impacts . • We will compile results from these analyses to address questions such as: • Are sufficient resources being allocated to sensitive Gulf species and ecosystems? • Are protection and rehabilitation efforts thus far successful, unsuccessful or inconclusive? • What are the gaps in knowledge? • Additionally, we will make recommendations on future projects and goals for sensitive species protection.
Obstacles • Data sharing & proprietary information • Implementation of national data sharing agreement akin to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) • Timeline • Lengthy peer review process makes public use of academic findings for response efforts unrealistic • Legal barriers • Concerns over releasing data due to lawsuits • Central repository • A comprehensive list of relevant research within academia would allow greater flow of ideas and interdisciplinary cooperation
Parting Thoughts & Discussion • What role should academia take in the oil spill response effort? • Importance of funding academic research versus government research/monitoring • Differences between the Deepwater Horizon spill and past oil spills • Climate, ecosystems effected, amount of oil, clean up success • Dispersants use, benefits & consequences
Questions? Thank you! Margo Moss Tierra Resources LLC 1310 Saint Andrew St. Suite 1 New Orleans, LA 70130 E:firstname.lastname@example.org, P: 504.319.1575 Gulf Gathering, March 14th 2011