A Florida State University researcher and his team have developed a comprehensive analysis of oil in the Gulf of Mexico and determined how much of it occurs naturally and how much came from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill.
And more importantly, their data creates a map, showing where the active natural oil seeps are located.
The research was recently released online by the Journal of Geophysical Research Oceans and is also the basis for a paper with researchers at Columbia University published today in Nature Geoscience.
In total, 4.3 million barrels were released into the Gulf from the oil spill versus an annual release of 160,000 to 600,000 barrels per year from naturally occurring seeps, according to the new results.
"This information gives us context for the Deepwater Horizon spill," said FSU Professor of Oceanography Ian MacDonald. "Although natural seeps are significant over time, the spill was vastly more concentrated in time and space, which is why its impact was so severe."
Among the findings was that dispersants were able to eliminate about 21 percent the oil that floated on the surface of the Gulf of Mexico after the spill, but at the cost of spreading the remaining oil over a 49 percent larger area.
This map of oil also provides a basis for additional scientific research.
Using this new set of data, scientists will be able to go to a controlled area where they already know oil exists and perform controlled observations, as opposed to spilling new oil into an area. It also shows how the Gulf has adapted to natural oil seeps.
Researcher Ajit Subramaniam, an oceanographer at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, used the data set to focus on natural oil seeps and discovered something unusual -- phytoplankton, the base of the marine food chain -- were thriving in the area of these natural oil seeps. The results published in Nature Geoscience show that phytoplankton concentrations near the oil seeps were as much as twice as productive as those a few kilometers away where there were no seeps.
"This is the beginning of evidence that some microbes in the Gulf may be preconditioned to survive with oil, at least at lower concentrations," Subramaniam said. "In this case, we clearly see these phytoplankton are not negatively affected at low concentrations of oil, and there is an accompanying process that helps them thrive. This does not mean that exposure to oil at all concentrations for prolonged lengths of time is good for phytoplankton."
MacDonald had been working on data using satellite images of natural oil seeps for 10 years, and added in the Deepwater Horizon spill work a few years ago.
"It's giving us a basis for all of these other experiments," MacDonald said. "It's really revolutionizing how we look at the Gulf. It also gives scientists the exact geographic points where oil from the spill was located, so researchers can go to the Gulf floor and explore the area to see if there has been any environmental effect."
This research was funded by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation and the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative.
Kathleen Haughney | EurekAlert!
One step closer to reality
20.04.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für Entwicklungsbiologie
The dark side of cichlid fish: from cannibal to caregiver
20.04.2018 | Veterinärmedizinische Universität Wien
University of Connecticut researchers have created a biodegradable composite made of silk fibers that can be used to repair broken load-bearing bones without the complications sometimes presented by other materials.
Repairing major load-bearing bones such as those in the leg can be a long and uncomfortable process.
Study published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces is the outcome of an international effort that included teams from Dresden and Berlin in Germany, and the US.
Scientists at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) together with colleagues from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) and the University of Virginia...
Novel highly efficient and brilliant gamma-ray source: Based on model calculations, physicists of the Max PIanck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg propose a novel method for an efficient high-brilliance gamma-ray source. A giant collimated gamma-ray pulse is generated from the interaction of a dense ultra-relativistic electron beam with a thin solid conductor. Energetic gamma-rays are copiously produced as the electron beam splits into filaments while propagating across the conductor. The resulting gamma-ray energy and flux enable novel experiments in nuclear and fundamental physics.
The typical wavelength of light interacting with an object of the microcosm scales with the size of this object. For atoms, this ranges from visible light to...
Stable joint cartilage can be produced from adult stem cells originating from bone marrow. This is made possible by inducing specific molecular processes occurring during embryonic cartilage formation, as researchers from the University and University Hospital of Basel report in the scientific journal PNAS.
Certain mesenchymal stem/stromal cells from the bone marrow of adults are considered extremely promising for skeletal tissue regeneration. These adult stem...
In the fight against cancer, scientists are developing new drugs to hit tumor cells at so far unused weak points. Such a “sore spot” is the protein complex...
13.04.2018 | Event News
12.04.2018 | Event News
09.04.2018 | Event News
20.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
20.04.2018 | Interdisciplinary Research
20.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy