Slow Deepwater Horizon recovery of deepsea marine life

Hydrocarbons (oil and natural gas) escaping from the end of the riser tube after it was severed immediately above the Macondo well. Credit: Modified from BP video from ROVs/US Geological Survey
Hydrocarbons (oil and natural gas) escaping from the end of the riser tube after it was severed immediately above the Macondo well. Credit: Modified from BP video from ROVs/US Geological Survey

Scientists from the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium have provided evidence ofthe  severe effects on diversity, abundance, and health of the deep-sea megafauna that remains around the area of the Deepwater Horizon spill that occurred almost a decade ago.

“The 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill is one of the largest environmental disasters, which had extensive effects on the economic and ecological health of the Gulf of Mexico. Surface oil and coastal impacts received considerable attention, but the far larger oil spill in the deep ocean and its effects received considerably less examination”, they explain the relevance of their study, titled Persistent and substantial impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on deep-sea megafauna, published by the Royal Society’s Open Science. 

Comparing 2010 and 2017 ROV surveys within 500 m of the wellhead, the scientists found that “at locations proximal to the wellhead, megafauna communities are more homogeneous than in unaffected areas, lacking many taxonomic groups, and driven by high densities of arthropods”.

“The scope of the long-lasting effects may extend beyond the impacted sites, with the potential for impacts to pelagic food webs and commercially important species. Overall, deep-sea ecosystem health, seven years post spill, is recovering slowly and lingering effects may be extreme,” they warned.

Read the full study here.