After BP disaster, another big oil spill?


This 17 December 2018 video from the USA says about itself:

2010: Blowout: The Deepwater Horizon Disaster

A survivor recalls his harrowing escape; plus, a former BP insider warns of another potential disaster

U.S. MORE AT RISK THAN EVER OF MAJOR OIL SPILL On April 20, 2010 BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded while drilling an exploratory well off the coast of Louisiana. The catastrophic event killed 11 workers and unleashed more than 200 million gallons of crude into the Gulf of Mexico ― the largest oil spill in U.S. history. A decade later, experts and environmental advocates warn that the U.S. remains woefully unprepared for a major spill ― and is perhaps even more at risk of one due to the Trump administration’s relentless push to expand offshore drilling and gut environmental regulations. [HuffPost]

From Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in the USA:

What did scientists learn from Deepwater Horizon?

April 20, 2020

Ten years ago, a powerful explosion destroyed an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 workers and injuring 17 others. Over a span of 87 days, the Deepwater Horizon well released an estimated 168 million gallons of oil and 45 million gallons of natural gas into the ocean, making it the largest accidental marine oil spill in history.

Researchers from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) quickly mobilized to study the unprecedented oil spill, investigating its effects on the seafloor and deep-sea corals and tracking dispersants used to clean up the spill.

In a review paper published in the journal Nature Reviews Earth & Environment, WHOI marine geochemists Elizabeth Kujawinski and Christopher Reddy review what they — and their science colleagues from around the world — have learned from studying the spill over the past decade.

“So many lessons were learned during the Deepwater Horizon disaster that it seemed appropriate and timely to consider those lessons in the context of a review,” says Kujawinski. “We found that much good work had been done on oil weathering and oil degradation by microbes, with significant implications for future research and response activities.”

10 years after BP disaster, still oil pollution


This 2015 video from the USA says about itself:

The Gulf Oil Spill Disintegrated This Island | National Geographic

Cat Island was once one of the four largest bird-nesting grounds in Louisiana. But the Deepwater Horizon oil spill killed the mangroves growing there, destroying the root system that held the island’s sediment in place. Since 2010, the 5.5 acre island has been washing away into the Gulf of Mexico, and migratory birds find their home disappearing before their eyes.

From the University of South Florida (USF Innovation) in the USA:

First Gulf of Mexico-wide survey of oil pollution completed 10 years after Deepwater Horizon

April 15, 2020

Since the 2010 BP oil spill, marine scientists at the University of South Florida (USF) have sampled more than 2,500 individual fish representing 91 species from 359 locations across the Gulf of Mexico and found evidence of oil exposure in all of them, including some of the most popular types of seafood. The highest levels were detected in yellowfin tuna, golden tilefish and red drum.

The study, just published in Nature Scientific Reports, represents the first comprehensive, Gulf-wide survey of oil pollution launched in response to the Deepwater Horizon spill. It was funded by a nearly $37 million grant from the independent Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI) to establish the Center for Integrated Modeling and Analysis of Gulf Ecosystems (C-IMAGE), an international consortium of professors, post-doctoral scholars and students from 19 collaborating institutions.

Over the last decade, USF scientists conducted a dozen research expeditions to locations off the United States, Mexico and Cuba examining levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), the most toxic chemical component of crude oil, in the bile of the fish. Bile is produced by the liver to aid in digestion, but it also acts as storage for waste products.

“We were quite surprised that among the most contaminated species was the fast-swimming yellowfin tuna as they are not found at the bottom of the ocean where most oil pollution in the Gulf occurs,” said lead author Erin Pulster, a researcher in USF’s College of Marine Science. “Although water concentrations of PAHs can vary considerably, they are generally found at trace levels or below detection limits in the water column. So where is the oil pollution we detected in tunas coming from?”

Pulster says it makes sense that tilefish have higher concentrations of PAH because they live their entire adult lives in and around burrows they excavate on the seafloor and PAHs are routinely found in Gulf sediment. However, their exposure has been increasing over time, as well as in other species, including groupers, some of Florida’s most economically important fish. In a separate USF-led study, her team measured the concentration of PAHs in the liver tissue and bile of 10 popular grouper species. The yellowedge grouper had a concentration that increased more than 800 percent from 2011 to 2017.

Fish with the highest concentrations of PAH were found in the northern Gulf of Mexico, a region of increased oil and gas activity and in the vicinity of the Deepwater Horizon spill that gushed nearly four million barrels of oil over the course of three months in 2010. Oil-rich sediments at the bottom where much of the oil settled are resuspended by storms and currents, re-exposing bottom-dwelling fish.

Oil pollution hot spots were also found off major population centers, such as Tampa Bay, suggesting that runoff from urbanized coasts may play a role in the higher concentrations of PAHs. Other sources include chornic low-level releases from oil and gas platforms, fuel from boats and airplanes and even natural oil seeps — fractures on the seafloor that can ooze the equivalent of millions of barrels of oil per year.

“This was the first baseline study of its kind, and it’s shocking that we haven’t done this before given the economic value of fisheries and petroleum extraction in the Gulf of Mexico,” said Steven Murawksi, professor of fisheries biology at USF, who led the international research effort.

Despite the detected trends of oil contamination in fish bile and liver, fish from the Gulf of Mexico are rigorously tested for contaminants to ensure public safety and are safe to eat because oil contaminants in fish flesh are well below public health advisory levels. Chronic PAH exposure, however, can prevent the liver from functioning properly, resulting in the decline of overall fish health.

These studies were made possible by BP’s 10-year, $500 million commitment to fund independent research on the long-term effects of the Deepwater Horizon spill administered by the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative. This year marks the end of that funding.

“Long-term monitoring studies such as these are important for early warning of oil pollution leaks and are vital for determining impacts to the environment in the case of future oil spills,” Pulster said.

BP’S TOXIC LEGACY Ten years ago, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 men and spilling 200 million gallons of Louisiana crude. HuffPost spoke with people who are still suffering from the health and economic fallout of cleaning up the toxic spill. [HuffPost]

BP oil spill, worse than once thought


This February 2015 video from the USA says about itself:

BP Oil Spill 5 Years Later: Wildlife Still Suffering | msnbc

Ed Schultz continues his investigation into the Deepwater Horizon oil spill five years on, as it continues to wreak havoc on the Gulf Coast.

By Maria Temming in the USA, 12 February 2020:

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill spread much farther than once thought

Simulations show the extent of toxic oil pollution in the Gulf of Mexico from the 2010 disaster

Nearly a decade after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, computer simulations suggest that the toxic pollution extended much farther than satellite images first indicated.

Those images, taken after the spill dumped nearly 800 million liters of oil into Gulf waters, helped to determine which areas would be temporarily closed for fishing (SN: 4/3/15). Scientists’ observations since then had suggested that the oil had spread farther (SN: 7/31/14).

The new analysis confirms that fact with computer simulations, which considered ocean currents, oil evaporation and other factors to map the spill’s true expanse. Satellites appear to have overlooked at least 30 percent of the hazardous pollution, says biological oceanographer Claire Paris-Limouzy of the University of Miami.

The simulations uncovered vast ocean swaths where oil concentrations were high enough to endanger marine life, but dilute enough to have been overlooked by satellites, Paris-Limouzy and colleagues report online February 12 in Science Advances.  Water and sediment samples from around the Gulf supported the findings.

In the immediate aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon spill, satellite observations that could detect high oil concentrations (brown) helped determine where to close fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico (black dashed line). But computer simulations of the spill indicate that lower oil concentrations invisible to satellites but still toxic to marine creatures (yellow) crept outside the boundaries of the fishery closures. Meanwhile, even lower, nontoxic levels of oil pollution (blue) spread even more widely

In the immediate aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon spill, satellite observations that could detect high oil concentrations (brown) helped determine where to close fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico (black dashed line). But computer simulations of the spill indicate that lower oil concentrations invisible to satellites but still toxic to marine creatures (yellow) crept outside the boundaries of the fishery closures. Meanwhile, even lower, nontoxic levels of oil pollution (blue) spread even more widely.

Satellite images had shown oil mostly in a northern and central patch of the Gulf. But the simulations suggest toxic levels of oil pollution cast a much wider stain on the ocean. Fishery closures covered about 94 percent of the polluted region observed by satellites, but only about 70 percent of the hazardous area identified by the new analysis — missing spots near Texas and Florida. Some of those waters remained closed to fishing for years.

Computer simulations could similarly estimate toxic but invisible portions of future oil spills, providing better guidance on where to close fisheries or send cleanup crews.

A Decade Later, Gulf Residents Suffer From BP’s Toxic Legacy.

AN AUSTRALIAN BP refinery worker who was fired for allegedly comparing his employers to Hitler successfully won back his job today: here.

Trojan horse against BP polluters sponsoring museum


BP or Not BP? activists bring a Trojan Horse into the British Museum to protest at the institution’s continued support for BP

By Marcus Barnett in London, England:

Friday, February 7, 2020

Environmental activists criticise British Museum’s BP sponsorship deal with Trojan Horse protest

PROTESTERS in London walked a Trojan Horse into the British Museum today to protest at the institution’s continued support for BP.

Activists belonging to the pressure group BP or Not BP? walked the 13-foot-tall horse through the museum’s gates in protest at the sponsorship of its new exhibition about Troy by the oil company.

The National Galleries Scotland and the Royal Shakespeare Company no longer receive money from BP, which paid no corporation tax in Britain this year.

However the British Museum has publicly stated that it is “proud” to receive money from them.

The group of 15 protesters inside the horse planned to stay in the museum’s forecourt overnight, ahead of a mass demonstration planned for 1pm on Saturday outside the gates.

BP or Not BP? spokeswoman Helen Glynn said: “The Troy exhibition has inspired us to create this magnificent beast, because the Trojan Horse is the perfect metaphor for BP sponsorship.

“On its surface the sponsorship looks like a generous gift, but inside lurks death and destruction.

“This is our 40th performance intervention at the British Museum. For eight years our peaceful creative protests have been dismissed and the museum has continued to back BP.

“Now the planet is literally burning.”

London Greenpeace action against BP polluters


London Greenpeace activists outside BP headquarters

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Greenpeace blockades BP on boss’s first day

Activists place solar panels and oil barrels outside firm’s central London HQ

GREENPEACE activists blocked BP’s headquarters with solar panels and oil barrels today to mark the first day in the job of the oil giant’s new boss.

The campaigners took along 500 solar panels to the central-London building early this morning as Bernard Looney prepared to take up his new role as chief executive.

Some protesters sat underneath the panels after they were prevented from installing them on the pavements and roads near the offices in St James’s Square.

Others locked themselves to oil barrels bearing the BP logo in front of the building’s doors to prevent entry.

Protester Richard George said: “This morning, police managed to block our solar installation — but BP are trying to block the transition to clean energy on a global scale.

Their lobbyists have the ear of governments around the world, they spend millions blocking action to fix the climate emergency and billions on drilling for more oil and gas to make it worse.

“Floods, droughts, forest fires and hurricanes all over the globe start right here, with the plans made in BP’s headquarters.

“Their new CEO needs to accept that if BP wants to keep trading in the 21st century, they need to switch to 100 per cent renewable energy.

“We’re not going to settle for a green-themed rebrand, solar panels on their petrol stations or wind turbines on their oil rigs.

“The only realistic response to the climate emergency is to cut emissions. BP need to stop wasting billions drilling for more oil and gas that we simply can’t burn and produce a plan to get out of the oil business entirely.”

Shell, BP sabotage Paris climate agreement


28 February 2017

Shell Oil Company made Climate of Concern in 1991 as a warning against the dangers of climate change; then they ignored it.

Oil giant Shell has spent millions lobbying against action on climate change. Yet a video uncovered by journalism platform The Correspondent has revealed that the company was acutely aware of the dangers of global warming as early in 1991 when it produced a short documentary warning against the threat of global warming. Find out more here.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

The investments that oil and gas companies such as Shell and BP want to make in the coming five years make it impossible to achieve the Paris climate targets. Seventeen international environmental organizations, including Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace, state this in a research report they presented at the climate summit in Madrid.

According to the researchers, between 2020 and 2024 the fossil industry is pumping more than 1.26 trillion euros into new oil and gas projects. The pumped-up fossil fuels are ultimately burned and CO2 is released and that greenhouse gas retains heat. According to the report, the projects that are planned for the coming five years are good for 148 gigatons of CO2. That is just as much as 1200 new coal-fired power stations.

According to environmental organizations, the earth will heat up by more than 1.5 degrees, perhaps even more than 2 degrees. It was agreed in the Paris Climate Agreement that global warming should be limited to “well below 2 degrees”, preferably about 1.5 degrees.

Incidentally, even with the existing oil and gas reserves, it is not possible to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees, the researchers say. According to Friends of the Earth, the new study “clearly shows that there is no room for more oil and gas extraction“.

‘Shell is literally destroying our future’. Extinction Rebellion targets the fossil fuel giant’s HQ in Scotland: here.

BP, bad museum sponsor, Syrian refugee says


This video says about itself:

Links between oil firms and invasion of Iraq

INTERNATIONAL PAPERS, Tues., 19/4/2011: The Independent leads with details on meetings between British ministers and representatives of BP and Shell some five months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003. A new book by oil campaigner Greg Muttitt claims oil was one of the UK government’s main strategic considerations for going to war in Iraq. Also, US debt and how swearing can relieve pain!

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

British Museum’s relationship with BP a ‘devastating blow,’ says Syrian refugee

A SYRIAN refugee whose work features in the British Museum’s Troy exhibition has spoken out against its sponsorship with oil giant BP.

In an open letter to the museum’s director and trustees, Reem Alsayyah said the partnership came as a “devastating blow.”

A film production of the play Queens of Syria, a modern retelling of Euripides’s The Trojan Women by a group of 13 Syrian refugees including Ms Alsayyah, will be shown at the upcoming exhibition.

Ms Alsayyah, who fled the civil war in Syria, has urged the British Museum to sever ties with BP, which she charges with “fuelling conflict and colonialism in the Middle East in order to access its oil reserves.”

The performer said the association was “deeply personal” as her family has been directly affected by wars where oil played a role in the conflict.

The letter, penned by Ms Alsayyah and Queen of Syria director Zoe Lafferty, is the latest to call on major British cultural institutions to end their partnerships with BP.

They said: “As many in our sector are now distancing themselves from BP, we feel we have a responsibility to speak out too and make clear that our work should not be used to clean up the company’s tarnished image.”

A British Museum spokeswoman said it relied on “external support” in order for projects like Troy to take place.

She said: “We understand that people have concerns about this kind of support and it’s right that those questions are raised.”

BP has been embroiled in multiple scandals, including allegations of complicity in the 2003 Iraq war.

Secret memos released in 2011 revealed that BP was lobbying the government for access to Iraq’s immense oil reserves just a few months before the invasion.

Royal Shakespeare Company breaks with BP oil


This 23 July 2019 video from Britain says about itself:

Sir Mark Rylance: Actor quits Royal Shakespeare Company over BP sponsorship
Sir Mark Rylance says he does “not wish to be associated with BP any more than I would with an arms dealer or a tobacco salesman“.

Oscar-winning British actor Sir Mark Rylance has quit the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) over sponsorship funding it receives from BP.

Sir Mark accused the energy firm of obscuring its damaging environmental impact by supporting arts organisations.

BP sponsors the RSC’s ticket scheme for 16-25-year -olds.

Writing for The Guardian and campaign group Culture Unstained, he said: “Today I feel I must dissociate myself from the RSC, not because it is any less of a theatre company, but because of the company it keeps.

“I feel I must resign as I do not wish to be associated with BP any more than I would with an arms dealer, a tobacco salesman or anyone who wilfully destroys the lives of others alive and unborn.

“The RSC will continue pushing BP‘s brand on to a generation of young people who have – in huge numbers through the ongoing school strikes – told adults they need to step up their response to the climate crisis now.

“Surely the RSC wants to be on the side of the world-changing kids, not the world-killing companies?”

Sir Mark added on BP: “Does this company have the right to associate itself with Shakespeare?

“Does it even have the right to have the word ‘British’ in its name when it is arguably destroying the planet our children and grandchildren will depend on to breathe, drink, eat and survive?”

The British star, who won the best supporting actor Oscar in 2016 for his role in Bridge of Spies, has called on the RSC to set a positive example for the future of sponsorship in the arts.

Like the BP oil fat cats are not fit sponsors for Shakespeare, their Shell oil fat cat colleagues are not fit sponsors for wildlife photography or classical music. Like there are also dodgy corporate sponsors at PSV football

However, today good news.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

RSC ends BP sponsorship

THE Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) is ending its sponsorship by BP following pressure from school climate strikers.

The RSC’s £5 ticket scheme for 16 to 25-year-olds had been supported by the oil giant since 2013.

However, pupils involved in the climate strikes threatened to boycott the British cultural institution over its “sickening” links to BP.

In a letter to the RSC, the students said: “BP’s influence is nothing but a stain on the RSC.

“If we, as young people, wish to see an affordable play at your theatre, we have to help to promote a company that is actively destroying our futures by wrecking the climate.

“BP is jeopardising the futures of these young people they apparently care so much about.

“It is sickening that the works of Shakespeare are being associated with these events.”

Oscar-winning actor Sir Mark Rylance, an associate artist with the RSC for 30 years, cut his link with the theatre company in the summer over the issue.

A joint statement by RSC artistic director Gregory Doran and executive director Catherine Mallyon said: “Amidst the climate emergency, which we recognise, young people are now saying clearly to us that the BP sponsorship is putting a barrier between them and their wish to engage with the RSC.

“We cannot ignore that message. It is with all of this in mind that we have taken the difficult decision to conclude our partnership with BP at the end of this year.

“There are many fine balances and complex issues involved and the decision has not been taken lightly or swiftly.”

BP said it was “disappointed and dismayed that the RSC has decided to end our partnership early.”

Stop BP polluters’ Shakespeare-washing


This 2010 video about the USA says about itself:

BP Funds Tea Party Climate Change Deniers

British newspaper The Guardian reports that BP and several other big European companies are funding the midterm election campaigns of Tea Party favorites who deny the existence of global warming.

After BP’s and other polluting corporations’ greenwashing, now ‘Shakespeare-washing’ …

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today, about Britain:

Two prominent actors refuse to perform with the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) as long as that theater company is sponsored by BP. Mark Rylance and Miriam Margolyes do not want their names to be associated with the oil corporation.

“I do not wish to be associated with BP any more than I would with an arms dealer, a tobacco salesman or anyone who wilfully destroys the lives of others alive or unborn. Nor, I believe, would William Shakespeare“, Rylance wrote last week.

Rylance, who was the first artistic director of Shakespeare’s Globe in London, eg, also wrote:

The arts sponsorship business is tricky. I would love nothing more than increased support for the imaginative arts, athletics and sciences of Britain. So I met with the environmentalist Jonathon Porritt, to find out if my suspicions about BP were wrong. “I worked closely with senior leaders in BP for more than a decade, intent on helping them radically change course”, he told me. “That work came to an end when I came to the incontrovertible conclusion that BP is neither sincere nor serious in addressing the climate crisis.”

He continued: “Together with other oil majors, BP has been accused of fully understanding the science of climate change as far back as the early 1980s, and downplaying and obscuring that science ever since, always in the short-term interests of its shareholders. Regrettably, its current leadership is stuck in the same pattern – all the time using philanthropy to hide its past and present culpability.”

The NOS article continues:

In addition to his roles for the theater, he [Rylance] has become famous worldwide in recent years through the Spielberg films Bridge of Spies, The GVR and Ready Player One. …

BP sponsors cheap tickets for young visitors to the RSC. Rylance thinks that is rich coming from BP, because young people have been protesting against climate change recently. “The RSC can give young people much more value than a cheap £5 ticket”, he reasons. “It could give them the support of Shakespeare in their stand against our addiction to energy dealers who would willingly destroy us for a quick quid.” …

The RSC is the second institute under fire due to links with BP. Earlier, other artists spoke out against the company’s involvement with the National Portrait Gallery.

This 4 June 2010 video from the USA about the BP Gulf of Mexico oil disaster is called The Dead and Dying Animals BP Doesn’t Want the Public to See.

By Jamie Johnson in British Conservative The Daily Telegraph, 27 June 2019:

Miriam Margolyes has joined Sir Mark Rylance’s boycott of the Royal Shakespeare Company over their sponsorship deal with BP.

The Bafta winning actress, who has starred in Harry Potter, Call the Midwife and The Real Marigold Hotel has said she will not appear in any RSC productions while the company kept its sponsorship deal with the oil giant.

“Mark Rylance is absolutely right in his stance and I support it”, she told the BBC.

“I would turn them down as long as they are supporting something that is doing harm to the world.”

A team of researchers is conducting the largest-ever simulation of the BP Deepwater Horizon spill to determine more precisely where hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil dispersed following the drilling rig’s explosion in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010: here.

BP oil spill scandal still continues


This 2015 video from the USA says about itself:

BP Oil Spill 5 Years Later: Wildlife Still Suffering | msnbc

Ed Schultz continues his investigation into the Deepwater Horizon oil spill five years on, as it continues to wreak havoc on the Gulf Coast.

Now, it is nine years later.

From the Virginia Institute of Marine Science in the USA:

Continuing impacts of Deepwater Horizon oil spill

Findings reveal that restoration of marsh vegetation is key to overall recovery

April 19, 2019

Nine years ago tomorrow — April 20, 2010 — crude oil began leaking from the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig into the Gulf of Mexico in what turned out to be the largest marine oil spill in history. A long-term study suggests the oil is still affecting the salt marshes of the Gulf Coast, and reveals the key role that marsh grasses play in the overall recovery of these important coastal wetlands.

Conducting the study was a multi-institutional research team funded in part by the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative, a 10-year independent program established through a $500 million financial commitment from BP. The team began sampling soon after the spill was finally contained, and continue their work today. Their most-recent article — in Estuaries and Coasts — reports on the first six and a half years of sampling post-spill.

Lead author on the study is John Fleeger, an emeritus professor at LSU. Co-authors are Rita Riggio, Irving Mendelssohn, Qianxin Lin, and Aixin Hou of LSU; David Johnson of William & Mary’s Virginia Institute of Marine Science; Donald Deis of Atkins North America; Kevin Carman of the University of Nevada-Reno; Sean Graham of Nicholls State University; and Scott Zengel of Research Planning, Inc.

Johnson, an assistant professor at VIMS and expert in salt marsh invertebrates, says “Our study highlights the crucial role that plants play in the recovery of important links in the Gulf of Mexico’s coastal food web.” Those links ultimately connect to the fish and shellfish that support the region’s economy and culture.

Two plants dominate healthy Gulf Coast salt marshes — the smooth cordgrass Spartina alterniflora and the black needlerush Juncus roemerianus. Also abundant on the marsh surface are single-celled, plant-like organisms that scientists collectively refer to as benthic microalgae, while a suite of small invertebrates — amphipods, copepods, nematodes, snails, worms, and others — swim, hop, and crawl among the grass blades or burrow in the underlying root zone.

The team studied these organisms by measuring their abundance and biomass in heavily oiled, moderately oiled, and oil-free areas of Louisiana’s Barataria Bay, using both surface plots and shallow cores. Sampling took place at roughly 6-month intervals between 2011 and 2016.

The researchers’ early sampling showed that nearly all the plants in heavily oiled areas died, while benthic microalgae and burrowing invertebrates suffered significant reductions. Their later sampling showed that marsh recovery was led by benthic microalgae and Spartina — which began to show significant above-ground growth within two to three years.

Importantly, it was only after Spartina started its comeback that recovery of the invertebrate community began in earnest. “Plants are the foundation of salt marshes,” explains Johnson. “Marsh grasses facilitate colonization by burrowing invertebrates; fuel the food web, provide animal habitat, bind the soil, and slow water flow. Without plants there is no marsh, and there is no marsh recovery following a spill without plants leading the way.”

If you plant it, they will come

The team’s findings have important implications for responding to any future spills. Fleeger says “our findings indicate that mitigation strategies for any future spills should include the planting of foundation species such as Spartina.”

Mendelssohn, a VIMS alumnus (M.A. ’73), says that foundation species “enhance recovery by providing habitat and reducing sediment erosion.” Over the longer term, he says, “plant growth enhances recovery by improving soil quality. Plants generate organic matter that accumulates belowground, while their roots and rhizomes release oxygen, bind sediments, and increase sediment volume. Breakdown of plant tissues also provides nutrients that further stimulate plant growth and beneficial microbial processes in the marsh.”

A slow road to full recovery

Tempering the promise of marsh recovery via planting of grasses such as Spartina is the team’s discovery that heavily oiled marsh sites remained less healthy than moderately oiled and oil-free sites more than 6 years after the Deepwater Horizon spill. Heavily oiled sites still had elevated concentrations of oil and its breakdown products, and showed slower growth of black needlerush, lower production of plant detritus and below-ground organic matter, and altered soil density. Populations of worms, juvenile snails, and other small invertebrates had also failed to fully recover.

Particularly troubling was the continued rarity of the polychaete worm Manayunkia aestuarina. One of the most abundant single species in the invertebrate community, this tube dweller is important to the health of marsh sediments, and plays a key role in the marsh food web as a major prey item for crabs, shrimp, and fish. “The near absence of this species could indicate significant alteration of ecological function at heavily oiled sites,” says Johnson.

Also troubling is that projecting the observed pace of mash recovery into the future suggests that complete recovery at moderately and heavily oiled sites will likely take much longer than a decade. This is slower than reported in many previous studies of oil spills and their impacts on the marsh community.

“Previous work shows that oil spills in salt marshes can impact bottom-dwelling invertebrates for more than four decades,” says Fleeger. “Long-term exposure to oil and its breakdown products may also decrease the sensitivity and resilience of these organisms to future spills,” he adds.

On a brighter note, a previous study by Johnson and colleagues suggests that fertilization of Spartina plantings can enhance growth of both its stems and roots, thus aiding marsh recovery in the long term. “We’re starting to see the salt marsh in the Gulf of Mexico rebound,” says Johnson, “but it will likely be a decade or more before we see complete recovery.”

Greenpeace activists blockade BP’s London headquarters ahead of its AGM: here.