BP Oil Damage Deep-Sea Corals

in environment, biology

In a recent exploration by scientists from the Government and US Universities to deep-sea coral habitats of Gulf of Mexico observed damage to corals and marine life.  The recent exploration was part of a of a multiyear collaboration sponsored by NOAA’s Office of Ocean Exploration and Research and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE)

Researchers were working at a site 1,400 meters deep (roughly 4,600 feet) and approximately seven miles southwest of the Macondo wellhead when they visually observed dead and dying corals with sloughing tissue and discoloration.  

Charles Fisher, Ph.D., professor of biology at Penn State University and chief scientist on the expedition, described much of the soft coral observed in an area measuring about 15 to 40 meters as covered by what appeared to be a brown substance. Ninety percent of 40 large corals were heavily affected and showed dead and dying parts and discoloration. Another site 400 meters away had a colony of stony coral similarly affected and partially covered with a similar brown substance.

coral damage BP spill

The gorgonian sea fan Callogorgia americana and symbiotic brittle stars from a site at approximately 350 meters depth in the Green Canyon area of the Gulf of Mexico. In the bottom left of the image are some small, brown anemones that have colonized a portion of the skeleton of the sea fan. (Credit: Image courtesy of  Lophelia II 2010 Expedition, NOAA-OER/BOEMRE.) 

Sediment and coral samples were collected with the ROV and were brought to the surface for analyses. Further testing will also determine if the substance is oil, and if so, whether it is consistent with the release from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

“These observations capture our concern for impacts to marine life in places in the Gulf that are not easily seen,” said Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., under secretary for commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “Continued, ongoing research and monitoring involving academic and government scientists are essential for comprehensive understanding of impacts to the Gulf.”

Source: NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)

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