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Brittany, FranceOIL IN OUR OCEANS

New Report Highlights the Impacts of Oil Spills on Marine Invertebrates

by Matthew Shepherd

Four years ago, a massive explosion ripped apart the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, causing 11 deaths and many more injuries.

After burning for a day and a half, the crippled rig collapsed into the Gulf of Mexico, rupturing the wellhead 5,000 feet below the surface. Crude oil spewed into the depths of the Gulf for nearly three months.

The true scale of this spill may never be known, but at least 193 million gallons of oil were released.

The Deepwater Horizon may be the most recent, but it is by no means the only major oil spill that has occurred. Names such as Exxon Valdez, Torrey Canyon, Amoco Cadiz, and North Cape will be forever associated with blackened beaches and stricken wildlife. right: Amoco Cadiz impact on Brittany, France coastline, 1978. Photo by NOAA.

Oil in our oceans
Download a free PDF of Oil in Our Oceans: A Review of Impacts of Oil Spills on Marine Invertebrates.

After each incident, news broadcasts and newspapers carry images of oiled birds and struggling mammals, but the damage goes much deeper, impacting the invertebrates that form the basic building blocks of our marine environment.

Oil spills have affected -- and will continue to affect -- invertebrates and their habitats across the globe. There is no question that spilled oil is highly toxic to marine invertebrates and that this toxicity is long-lasting, but, because of the extreme diversity of marine invertebrates and the relative lack of research, we still know little about the ultimate ecosystem-wide impacts of these events.

The Xerces Society's new science report: Oil in Our Oceans ~ available for free download ~ helps to fill this knowledge gap. Exploring the impacts of oil spills on marine invertebrates, from corals and zooplankton to crabs and oysters, the report clearly establishes that an oil spill has immediate impacts on invertebrates, and continues affecting wildlife for years, even decades, after the cleanup crews have left.

The report reviews the significance of invertebrates to the marine ecosystem and commercial fisheries, identifies the impacts of oil spills, and makes recommendations on how to reduce these impacts. It includes a section on the Deepwater Horizon and a series of profiles of species of particular concern in the Gulf of Mexico.

~ Matthew Shepherd is the communications director for the Xerces Society. You can donate to the efforts of the Xerces Society by clicking here.

About the Xerces Society:


THE XERCES SOCIETY is a nonprofit organization that protects wildlife through the conservation of invertebrates and their habitat. Established in 1971, the Society is at the forefront of invertebrate protection worldwide, harnessing the knowledge of scientists and the enthusiasm of citizens to implement conservation programs.

Butterflies, dragonflies, beetles, worms, starfish, mussels, and crabs are but a few of the millions of invertebrates at the heart of a healthy environment. Invertebrates build the stunning coral reefs of our oceans; they are essential to the reproduction of most flowering plants, including many fruits, vegetables, and nuts; and they are food for birds, fish, and other animals. Yet invertebrate populations are often imperiled by human activities and rarely accounted for in mainstream conservation.

The Society uses advocacy, education, and applied research to defend invertebrates.

Over the past three decades, we have protected endangered species and their habitats, produced ground-breaking publications on insect conservation, trained thousands of farmers and land managers to protect and manage habitat, and raised awareness about the invertebrates of forests, prairies, deserts, and oceans.

You can donate to the efforts of the Xerces Society by clicking here.

Explore the Xerces Society web site for other
free downloads and publications including:

neonicotinoids Bumble Bee

Farming pollinators

Conserving Bumble Bees Attracting Native Pollinators

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