Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

New Report Offers Broad Approach to Assessing Impacts of Ecological Damage

11.11.2011
From Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

The magnitude and depth of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill will require an unprecedented effort to determine the extent and severity of ecological damage and to develop restoration plans for affected areas in the Gulf of Mexico, says an interim report by the National Research Council.

A broad approach that focuses on repairing ecosystem processes -- such as fisheries production -- in addition to replacing natural resources damaged by the spill could offer more options for restoring the Gulf region, says the congressionally mandated report.

"The Gulf of Mexico is a vast, complex ecosystem that provides a wealth of important ecological services -- from seafood to tourism to flood protection through its coastal wetlands," said Larry A. Mayer, chair of the committee that wrote the report, director of the Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping, and professor of earth science and ocean engineering at the University of New Hampshire. "It will be a challenge to assess the full scope of impacts from this spill -- the biggest in U.S. history -- and ensure that valuable services are fully restored for the region and ultimately the nation."

The Oil Pollution Act of 1990 establishes a formal legal framework for determining when an oil spill results in an "injury" -- defined as an observable or measurable adverse change or impairment in a natural resource. Through a process known as the Natural Resources Damage Assessment (NRDA), representatives of federal and state governments, tribes, and other "trustees" of the affected ecosystem must attempt to quantify the extent of damages caused by a spill, develop and monitor restoration plans, and seek compensation from the parties deemed responsible.

Historically, NRDA has been used to measure losses in ecological terms, such as the number of fish killed or acres of marsh damaged. As a result, restoration projects usually focus on replacing specific resources. However, NRDA has generally been applied to smaller, relatively contained spills in shallow water. The full impacts of the Deepwater Horizon spill, which released more than 5 million barrels of oil in the Gulf at great depth, will be more difficult to quantify, the committee said. Because the Gulf is continually changing due to natural and human forces, establishing baselines to measure ecological changes caused by the spill is challenging in many cases. An additional concern is the potential for chronic impacts that may not be evident for several years.

A broader "ecosystem services" approach to assessing damage from the spill could "expand the menu" of restoration projects beyond identifying specific ecological damage to a habitat or resource, the report says. Under this approach, for example, the assessment process for a wetland area would take into account the value of a wetland in containing storm surges in addition to cataloging the harm to vegetation and wildlife. This could help incorporate long-term, chronic effects of the oil spill into the assessment process. By expanding options for restoration, it could also foster more timely identification and development of restoration projects that are mutually agreeable to trustees, responsible parties, and the public.
Although an ecosystem services approach has great potential, the report acknowledges that it will often be difficult to implement because of large gaps in data on ecosystems, the multiple services they provide, and their complexity. The committee also looked at several economic approaches to measure the value of ecosystem services lost due to the oil spill and recognized that some services are difficult to assess in monetary terms. The report notes that specific types of data and analysis will be required to complement the thousands of ecological samples and other data already being collected in the Gulf. Despite these limitations, however, the committee believed that an ecosystem services approach would offer a more comprehensive assessment of damages and more flexibility in restoration plans for the Gulf.

In its final report, due in the spring of 2013, the committee will further examine methods for determining how the oil spill affected the Gulf region's ecosystems and identify practical approaches to enhance its long-term resiliency. A separate committee examining the causes of the Deepwater Horizon blowout will release its final report in the coming weeks.

The study was sponsored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council make up the National Academies. They are private, nonprofit institutions that provide science, technology, and health policy advice under a congressional charter. The Research Council is the principal operating agency of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering. For more information, visit http://national-academies.org. A committee roster follows.

Contacts:
Jennifer Walsh, Media Relations Officer
Shaquanna Shields, Media Relations Assistant
Office of News and Public Information
202-334-2138; e-mail news@nas.edu

Jennifer Walsh | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.nas.edu

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Fungicides as an underestimated hazard for freshwater organisms
17.09.2019 | Leibniz-Institut für Gewässerökologie und Binnenfischerei (IGB)

nachricht Study: We need more realistic experiments on the impact of climate change on ecosystems
16.09.2019 | Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg

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: Happy hour for time-resolved crystallography

Researchers from the Department of Atomically Resolved Dynamics of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg, the University of Hamburg and the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) outstation in the city have developed a new method to watch biomolecules at work. This method dramatically simplifies starting enzymatic reactions by mixing a cocktail of small amounts of liquids with protein crystals. Determination of the protein structures at different times after mixing can be assembled into a time-lapse sequence that shows the molecular foundations of biology.

The functions of biomolecules are determined by their motions and structural changes. Yet it is a formidable challenge to understand these dynamic motions.

Im Focus: Modular OLED light strips

At the International Symposium on Automotive Lighting 2019 (ISAL) in Darmstadt from September 23 to 25, 2019, the Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, a provider of research and development services in the field of organic electronics, will present OLED light strips of any length with additional functionalities for the first time at booth no. 37.

Almost everyone is familiar with light strips for interior design. LED strips are available by the metre in DIY stores around the corner and are just as often...

Im Focus: Tomorrow´s coolants of choice

Scientists assess the potential of magnetic-cooling materials

Later during this century, around 2060, a paradigm shift in global energy consumption is expected: we will spend more energy for cooling than for heating....

Im Focus: The working of a molecular string phone

Researchers from the Department of Atomically Resolved Dynamics of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg, the University of Potsdam (both in Germany) and the University of Toronto (Canada) have pieced together a detailed time-lapse movie revealing all the major steps during the catalytic cycle of an enzyme. Surprisingly, the communication between the protein units is accomplished via a water-network akin to a string telephone. This communication is aligned with a ‘breathing’ motion, that is the expansion and contraction of the protein.

This time-lapse sequence of structures reveals dynamic motions as a fundamental element in the molecular foundations of biology.

Im Focus: Milestones on the Way to the Nuclear Clock

Two research teams have succeeded simultaneously in measuring the long-sought Thorium nuclear transition, which enables extremely precise nuclear clocks. TU Wien (Vienna) is part of both teams.

If you want to build the most accurate clock in the world, you need something that "ticks" very fast and extremely precise. In an atomic clock, electrons are...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Society 5.0: putting humans at the heart of digitalisation

10.09.2019 | Event News

Interspeech 2019 conference: Alexa and Siri in Graz

04.09.2019 | Event News

AI for Laser Technology Conference: optimizing the use of lasers with artificial intelligence

29.08.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

Stroke patients relearning how to walk with peculiar shoe

18.09.2019 | Innovative Products

Statistical inference to mimic the operating manner of highly-experienced crystallographer

18.09.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

Scientists' design discovery doubles conductivity of indium oxide transparent coatings

18.09.2019 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>