Science News

Wetland critters survive Deepwater Horizon oil spill

Thu, 8th Mar 2012

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Salt MarshIt will soon be two years since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, and there is still a lot of concern over the impact itís had on marine and coastal ecosystems in the region.

A new study just out suggests that communities of small critters living in coastal salt marshes are vulnerable to oil exposure but at the same time quite resilient, and as long the plants they live in remain healthy they can recover within a year.

As the oil swept across the Gulf back in 2010, Brittany McCall and Steven Pennings from the University of Houston in the US, went out and studied populations of crabs, snails, insects & spiders - living in 10 salt marshes in Louisiana and Mississippi in areas that werenít completely covered but had relatively low levels of oil.

Compared to oil-free control sites, there were around half the abundance of salt marsh invertebrates in the oiled sites Ė except for the marine snail, Littorina, which was unaffected by the oil.

The good news was that after a year, all those animals recovered.

But what this study has revealed is that even when salt marshes arenít completely smothered in oil, the animals living there can still be affected in the short term by lower levels of pollutants.

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