Scientists have found evidence of oil becoming toxic to marine organisms in a section of the Gulf of Mexico known for supporting the spawning grounds for fish.
Researchers from the University of South Florida are reporting their preliminary results indicate the appearance of droplets of oil among the sediment of a vital underwater canyon where clouds of oil from the BP spill have been found.
“So, indeed, the waters have a level of toxicity that needs to be recognized, and I think these were some of the first indicators that the base of the food web — the bacteria and the phytoplankton — may be affected”, reports David Hollander, who is a scientist on a research vessel that just returned from a 10-day trip in the gulf.
“We were able to detect sediments that had oil covering them. It wasn’t like a drape, it looked like a constellation of stars that were at the scale of microdroplets. They seemed to be at every location we looked east of the wellhead, and interestingly and surprisingly, at the top of the DeSoto Canyon to the east.”
He described the DeSoto Canyon as an underwater geologic feature that is thought to bathe the Continental Shelf with nutrient-rich waters.
In subsurface waters east of the wellhead, phytoplankton- microscopic, plant-like organisms that form the base of the marine food web – were found to be in poor health
In those locations, phytoplankton was repressed, or “feeling a toxic response to those waters,” he added.
Quick science lesson:
At the bottom of the chain are the phytoplankton, they live in the vulnerable marshes and near the surface of the water, obtaining their nutrients from organic matter in the marshes, sunlight, and water.
In return they convert carbon dioxide to oxygen – oxygen that all of the rest of the food chain needs. In addition, phytoplankton provide direct nourishment to many sea creatures higher on the food chain.
Shrimp mature in the marshlands, then migrate to the ocean where they become food for fish. These fish provide nourishment to birds and animals, like us.
If the phytoplankton are sick, contaminated, toxic that same level of health moves on up the food chain as that contaminated food moves up the food chain.
After doing an informal survey of is being honest about the situation in the Gulf of Mexico.
Tracy Lynn Cook~Writer
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Sources: LATimes.com, Alternet.com, photobucket.com