Pollution and the Gulf of Mexico Essay

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¶ … environmental impact of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. In particular, we evaluate its effect on the aquatic life. This paper discusses the various adverse ways in which the oil spill affects aquatic life with the aim of recommending the best actions to be used to contain the damage as well as to prevent future accidents that might endanger the ecology of the Gulf of Mexico.

The 2010 BP oil spill at the Gulf of Mexico is arguably one of the worst ecological disasters of all time (Warner,2010). The extent of its environmental impact is yet to be determined. Palmer (2011) states that the full affects of the spill may not be visible for a decade. The Gulf of Mexico oil spill affects the lives of both marine and coastal marines (Young,2010)

Toxicity of crude oil

Earth Gauge (2010) stated that crude oil contains a number of toxin compounds that get released into the water in its process of breaking down. The chemical which has been noted to have the highest toxicity to marine species are the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) which includes chemicals like benzene as well as toluene which are carcinogenic and are neurotoxins to animals and humans alike. This therefore means that they cause a great deal of health problems to aquatic life and human life too. Some of these toxins evaporate from the ocean surface. Others dissolve in the oceanic water column. It is worth pointing out that some mammals and fish are able to metabolize the toxins (PAHs).Others such as invertebrates are not able to metabolize the toxins.Get full Download Microsoft Word File access
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Essay on Pollution and the Gulf of Mexico Assignment

The PAHs may persist in sediments and water and hence accumulate in the body tissues of some invertebrate species. This in turn would affect their food web. The PAHs act differently. Some are phototoxic: meaning that they become toxic if exposed to direct sunlight. These type of Ahs are extremely dangerous to the zooplanktons that are transparent. The zooplanktons are an important part of the aquatic food chain. They are very tiny animals that float on the oceans. They do act as the source of food for larger marine organisms such as baleen whales. Other chemical dispersants such as Corexit got released in the Gulf oil spill and are noted to be very toxic to the invertebrates. The chemical Corexit has been noted to be biodegradable .However, due to the complex configuration of its chemical elements as well as the depth in which it got released, researchers are not able to predict with certainty the exact consequence and extent of damage (harm) that it has caused to the aquatic animals and plant (Earth Gauge, 2010). The crude oil that leaked into the Gulf of Mexico has a range of consequences on the marine organisms. Invertebrates (animals that lack backbones) such as planktons, fish larvae, jellyfish, crabs, starfish, shrimp as well as bivalves are very important for the aquatic food web. The exact effect of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill on the invertebrates is difficult die to their extremely small size and the depth of water in which they thrive (benthic/bottom zone). Other larger animals such as seabirds are fish are also affected by the toxicity and the lack of oxygen that is caused by the disruption of the oxygen circulation under water due to the oil blanket at the water surface.

The impact of pollution on the aquatic life

Due to the always escalating quantity of nitrogen and phosphates which are dissolved in the Gulf of Mexico's waters, pollution has greatly increased since 1950. The present approximations states that the gulf of Mexico's level of nitrogen now is three times the amount of nitrogen which was being carried into the Gulf 30 years ago. Numerous photosynthesizers are dying and later sinking. As they decay, they maximally utilize oxygen thereby exhausting the supplies of oxygen that is dissolved in water. During all summers there exists an area lying south of the coastline of Louisiana, it is bigger than Massachusetts. About 18,000 km2 of this place is hypoxic. The waters are not carrying adequate oxygen to maintain the aquatic life. The annually expanding "dead zone" poses huge danger not only to the fishing industry, but also to the public health.

Frequently, there are "red tide" blooms of algae (Carlisle, n.d) that are killing fish and other marine mammals. They also cause respiratory defects in humans and also domestic animals when they reach near the shore. This has occasionally plagued the southern and southwest coast of Florida, right from the Florida Keys up to the north of Pasco County in Florida.

During the month of June 1979, platform of the Ixtoc I oil in the Campeche's Bay was affected by a blowout that lead to a disastrous explosion, which later resulted into a huge oil spill. The oil spill did not stop for nine months and the well was capped. This was described as the biggest oil spill occurring in the Gulf of Mexico. The Deepwater Horizon oil spill that occurred in 2010 was however greater than it.

During the month of July 2008, some researchers observed that the dead zone running from east to west, from next to Galveston in Texas, to near Venice in Louisiana, was approximately 21,000 km2. Between the years 1985 and 2008, the region's size almost doubled (Achenbach, 2008). There exist approximately 27,000 left wells of oil and gas behind the Gulf. These have in general not been screened for probable environmental problems (Jeff, 2010)

The dead zone

The Gulf of Mexico hypoxic zone that was stated above refers to a periodic phenomenon that occurs in the north of the Gulf of Mexico, starting from Mississippi River's mouth up to past Texas border. It is usually called the Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone, due to the fact that the levels of oxygen in the zone so low that they cannot support aquatic life. The Zone was initially recorded in 1970's. At first, it used to take place after every two or three years. However, it now takes place on an annual basis. In 1999 during summer; the Zone reached its maximum, encircling 7,728 square miles (Carlisle, n.d)

Hypoxic conditions come about when the levels of oxygen that are dissolved in the water goes below two milligrams for every liter of water. This is so low that it cannot support animal life in the bottom of the ocean. There are also nutrients that offer good conditions for too much growth of algae that makes use of oxygen present in water for respiration and also when they are decomposing. (Carlisle, n.d)

The wastes from the Mississippi River Basin area are drained into the Gulf of Mexico via Mississippi River. The agricultural wastes that are drained into the ocean have phosphorus and nitrogen which as stated above are primarily responsible for algal blooms

Besides the agricultural waste, improperly treated or fully untreated sewage and also other urban pollution is also discarded into the Gulf of Mexico waters. Nitrogen is always a restrictive factor, implying its controlled amounts prevent the growth and reproduction of plants. On the contrary, too much amounts of nitrogen results into eutrophication. This refers to the takeover of the surface of water which is rich in nutrients by phytoplankton and other plants. Therefore if pollution caused by nutrients is not minimized, fish and shellfish may in the near future be replaced permanently by anaerobic bacteria (Carlisle, n.d).

The red tide

Besides these straight effects, hypoxia may explain a different phenomenon that is seen in the northern Gulf of Mexico. The phenomenon is referred to as red tides. The huge amounts of toxic phytoplankton share a compound correlation with hypoxia. The nitrogen and phosphorus presence and also as the food chain of the Dead Zone that is interfered with, produce favorable environment for… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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