Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Exxon Valdez oil spill impacts lasting far longer than expected, scientists say

19.12.2003


Assuming that oil spills such as the one that devastated Alaska’s Prince William Sound almost 15 years ago and other toxic insults to the environment have only short-term impacts on coastal marine ecosystems has been a big mistake, a new study shows.



Oil’s negative effects last far longer, scientists now say, and the findings should be a wake-up call for better environmental research and protection.

The study, conducted by a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill researcher and colleagues, involved synthesizing results of numerous more specialized but revealing investigations of the Alaskan disaster’s impact on various plant and animal species.


"These simply astounding findings have extremely important implications for environmental management," said principal investigator Dr. Charles H. Peterson, Alumni Distinguished professor of marine sciences at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "They show the environmental consequences of the Exxon Valdez oil spill went far beyond the more than 250,000 seabirds, thousands of marine mammals and countless numbers of other coastal marine organisms killed in the first days, weeks and months."

A report on the work appears in the Dec. 19 issue of the journal Science.

Besides Peterson, authors are Drs. Stanley D. Rice and Jeffrey W. Short of the National Marine Fisheries Service’s Auke Bay Laboratory at the Alaska Fisheries Science Center in Juneau; Dr. Daniel Esler of Canada’s Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, B.C.; Drs. James L. Bodkin and Brenda E. Ballachey of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Alaska Science Center in Anchorage; and Dr. David B. Irons of the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service in Anchorage.

"Studies we reviewed and synthesized showed that oil has persisted in surprisingly large quantities for years after the Exxon Valdez spill in subsurface reservoirs under course intertidal sediments," Peterson said. "This oil was sequestered in conditions where weathering by wave action, light and bacteria was inhibited, and toxicity remained for a decade or more."

As a result, many species suffered long-term loss, he said. For example, chronic exposure to the oil in mouths of streams boosted mortality among incubating pink salmon eggs for at least four years after the spill.

"Higher mortality was induced by concentrations of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons of only a few parts per billion," Peterson said. "These results require a complete reconsideration of the foundations of ecological risk assessment and ecotoxicology because acute mortality from oil involves concentrations perhaps 1,000 times greater. Earlier experiments incorrectly implied that lower oil concentrations were safe, which the new work clearly showed was not true."

Beyond their acute losses, marine mammals and sea ducks suffered high mortality for years after the accident in part because they ate invertebrates contaminated by the hidden oil and also contacted oil directly while digging up prey. Species as diverse as sea otters, harlequin ducks and killer whales suffered large, long-term losses. Oiled mussel beds and other tidal shoreline habitats will take an estimated 30 years to recover.

"Long-term declines also were observed in pink salmon as sublethal effects of oil exposure early in their life history led to stunted growth and indirect increases in mortality while they were in the ocean phase of their lives," he said.

Peterson said studies of the Exxon Valdez oil spill should lead to a new understanding of how lingering oil deposits affect species over many years, how sublethal, chronic doses compromise health, growth and reproduction and how impaired species interact negatively with one another in "cascade" fashion.

"Recognition that chronic exposures of fish eggs to oil concentrations as low as a few parts per billion lead indirectly to higher mortality shows the critical need to better control stormwater runoff of petroleum hydrocarbons and other toxins," he said. "In a developed country like the United States, an amount of petroleum equal to the Exxon Valdez oil spill is spilled annually for every 50 million people."

Revising and enforcing water quality standards and stormwater rules can help restore fisheries production lost to pollution, the scientist said.


Peterson works at the Institute of Marine Sciences, a part of UNC’s College of Arts and Sciences located in Morehead City, N.C.

Note: Peterson can be reached at (252) 726-6841, Ext. 130 or cpeters@email.unc.edu

David Williamson | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.unc.edu/

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Malaysia's unique freshwater mussels in danger
27.09.2016 | The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus

nachricht How to detect water contamination in situ?
22.09.2016 | Tomsk Polytechnic University (TPU)

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New welding process joins dissimilar sheets better

Friction stir welding is a still-young and thus often unfamiliar pressure welding process for joining flat components and semi-finished components made of light metals.
Scientists at the University of Stuttgart have now developed two new process variants that will considerably expand the areas of application for friction stir welding.
Technologie-Lizenz-Büro (TLB) GmbH supports the University of Stuttgart in patenting and marketing its innovations.

Friction stir welding is a still-young and thus often unfamiliar pressure welding process for joining flat components and semi-finished components made of...

Im Focus: First quantum photonic circuit with electrically driven light source

Optical quantum computers can revolutionize computer technology. A team of researchers led by scientists from Münster University and KIT now succeeded in putting a quantum optical experimental set-up onto a chip. In doing so, they have met one of the requirements for making it possible to use photonic circuits for optical quantum computers.

Optical quantum computers are what people are pinning their hopes on for tomorrow’s computer technology – whether for tap-proof data encryption, ultrafast...

Im Focus: OLED microdisplays in data glasses for improved human-machine interaction

The Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP has been developing various applications for OLED microdisplays based on organic semiconductors. By integrating the capabilities of an image sensor directly into the microdisplay, eye movements can be recorded by the smart glasses and utilized for guidance and control functions, as one example. The new design will be debuted at Augmented World Expo Europe (AWE) in Berlin at Booth B25, October 18th – 19th.

“Augmented-reality” and “wearables” have become terms we encounter almost daily. Both can make daily life a little simpler and provide valuable assistance for...

Im Focus: Artificial Intelligence Helps in the Discovery of New Materials

With the help of artificial intelligence, chemists from the University of Basel in Switzerland have computed the characteristics of about two million crystals made up of four chemical elements. The researchers were able to identify 90 previously unknown thermodynamically stable crystals that can be regarded as new materials. They report on their findings in the scientific journal Physical Review Letters.

Elpasolite is a glassy, transparent, shiny and soft mineral with a cubic crystal structure. First discovered in El Paso County (Colorado, USA), it can also be...

Im Focus: Complex hardmetal tools out of the 3D printer

For the first time, Fraunhofer IKTS shows additively manufactured hardmetal tools at WorldPM 2016 in Hamburg. Mechanical, chemical as well as a high heat resistance and extreme hardness are required from tools that are used in mechanical and automotive engineering or in plastics and building materials industry. Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Ceramic Technologies and Systems IKTS in Dresden managed the production of complex hardmetal tools via 3D printing in a quality that are in no way inferior to conventionally produced high-performance tools.

Fraunhofer IKTS counts decades of proven expertise in the development of hardmetals. To date, reliable cutting, drilling, pressing and stamping tools made of...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

European Health Forum Gastein 2016 kicks off today

28.09.2016 | Event News

Laser use for neurosurgery and biofabrication - LaserForum 2016 focuses on medical technology

27.09.2016 | Event News

Experts from industry and academia discuss the future mobile telecommunications standard 5G

23.09.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

New imaging technique in Alzheimer’s disease - opens up possibilities for new drug development

28.09.2016 | Medical Engineering

Innovate coating extends the life of materials for industrial use

28.09.2016 | Materials Sciences

Blockchain Set to Transform the Financial Services Market

28.09.2016 | Business and Finance

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>