Ocean Tragedy in the Gulf
Facing many threats, including overfishing, plastic gyres, acidification from climate change, and underwater clear-cutting in the form of dredging and trawling, the oceans are perhaps the world's most ravaged ecosystem. Now the recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is wreaking even more havoc, with estimates of gallons leaked ranging from 3 million to over 40 million gallons.
While BP works to contain the spill caused by an explosion on its Deepwater Horizon oil rig and politicians debate the future of oil drilling, gulf communities and national environmental organizations are scrambling to minimize the damage. As major fishing areas, gulf ecosystems have already been weakened by overfishing, pollution, and climate change; the additional impact of a massive oil spill will likely be devastating to the coastal and marine ecosystems in the gulf. The oil that is now spreading throughout the gulf waters is coating the habitats, bodies, and food of species like dolphins, and will likely prove threatening to the already critically-endangered bluefin tuna that use the area as a spawning ground. The oil may destroy the sea-grasses that act as keystone species in coastal salt marshes, and could coat the region's coral reefs, affecting the thousands of species who depend on these habitats for their survival. The region's once-rich biodiversity, including everything from endangered marine turtles to sharks, sea birds, and shellfish, is now gravely imperiled.
Only time will tell how well the gulf's ecosystems and wildlife can survive this disaster. The spill is another reminder of how fragile all the world's ecosystems are--and how important it is for us to protect them.
Image from TreeHugger.com