Oil spill in the Gulf: Ecological long-term effects feared

More than 400 animal and plant species in the Gulf region affected

Manatee © USGS
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According to the environmental organization WWF, the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico threatens to turn into a disaster for the region's flora and fauna. More than 400 species of animals could be affected in the long term, including endangered sea turtles, manatees and bluefin tuna. The oil could even destroy the precious mangrove forests of the Gulf Coast forever, since cleaning the complex ecosystems of oil is virtually impossible.


Oil is still pouring out of the deepwater horizon of the Gulf of Mexico into the sea. If the oil spill continues to spread along the coast from Louisiana to Florida, a total of 400 to 600 animal and plant species could be affected, experts from the conservation organization WWF estimate. Among them are also highly threatened birds, fish, sea turtles and the manatees and manatees of the Gulf Coast.

Permanent "Off" for the mangrove forests?

A particularly sensitive area is the mangrove forests of the Gulf Coast. They are particularly species-rich ecosystems that are very sensitive to pollution. In addition, many fish, reptiles, amphibians and crustaceans use the mangroves as a nursery. If the oil enters the mangrove areas, cleaning of these habitats is not possible according to the WWF. "The oil literally takes the mangroves to breathe. When the air and stilt roots stick together, the plants die off, "explains Alfred Schumm, head of the International WWF Center for Marine Conservation.

Crabs and worms live in the mud of the mangrove forests, and they enter the oil into deeper soil layers. There it can not be broken down without air supply and poison animals and plants for years. Removing the silt would be like destroying the ecosystem. "Without mangroves, the coasts lose a protective barrier against the hurricanes that are common in this region, " says the WWF expert. display

Birds: Oilification also weakens young generation

Four nature reserves alone in the crisis region of Louisiana are home to countless bird species. The oil-affected Breton National Wildlife Refuge, whose foothills have already reached oil, breeds an estimated 34, 000 seabirds, including about 2, 000 brown pelican breeding pairs and about 5, 000 breeding pairs of king terns. The K stenv gel eat mostly of fish and therefore get easily during the foraging in the lteppich.

If the parents do not go looking for food, the chicks will go back home and starve to death, "continued Schumm. Watvails and herons can also eat poisonous oil when searching for food Even when trying to cleanse their glued plumage, the birds poison themselves. The plpest also coincides with the beginning breeding and spawning season of many species, so that increase the ecological damage. The junior year is being massively weakened. Some populations will not be able to make up for this bloodletting by l in years to come "

Manatees and Seek he threatened with extinction

The herbivorous sea creatures settle and migrate on the Gulf coast from Florida to Mississippi. There are two subspecies in the region. According to scientific estimates, their populations have shrunk to less than 2, 500 adult animals each. The manatees live in estuarine areas of rivers, seagrass meadows and coastal waters, where they find suitable forage plants. They usually stay under the surface of the water. "For the lakes, poisoned food could be the primary threat, as the plants absorb toxins from the oil, " Schumm said. "Where seagrass beds and coastal vegetation are damaged, the seaside will also lose their last remoteness."

Spawning bluefin tuna spawning area contaminated

The stock of the critically endangered West Atlantic bluefin tuna, whose main spawning ground is in the northern Gulf of Mexico, is heavily encumbered by the oil. Over the past 30 years, the stock, which has been severely strained by overfishing, has plummeted by around 80 percent, and this year's offspring is now threatened with the end of the season: the spawning season for bluefin tuna extends from April to June. "The fish spawn in superficial layers of water - the sensitive spawn of tunas has no chance against the oil film, " says the WF expert. The lack of offspring will further weaken the West Atlantic population and will also be reflected in the fishing season in two to three years. "The bluefin tuna is one of the most expensive edible fish in the world.

High point of the breeding season for sea turtles

Five different species of endangered sea turtles live or nest in the Gulf of Mexico, including the True Hawkback Turtle, the Caribbean Bastard Turtle, the Leatherback Turtle - all three Species are threatened with extinction. The Green Sea Turtle and the Loggerhead Turtle are classified as threatened on the IUCN Red List. The breeding season of sea turtles is currently reaching its peak. In particular, the loggerhead tugs on the beaches of Mississippi to Florida.

The huge lteppich lies on the route to the beaches, which they head for oviposition. The lteppich represents a particularly serious danger for the turtle cubs slipping after approx. Six weeks. As pulmonary breathing sea turtles are forced to appear at the contaminated water surface. The olflfilm then damages their respiratory organs, "says Schumm.

In our special you will find more about "plpest in the Gulf"

(WWF, 10.05.2010 - NPO)