Earth’s Ecosystems relating to oil spill in Gulf of Mexico

Chapter 1
The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has had devastating effects on the abiotic and biotic components of the gulf. There is a fear of its short and long term effects on the environment.
Aquatic vegetation between the high tide mark and low tide mark including marsh grasses, are very important for reducing erosion and work as a habitat for the breeding of many invertebrate species and fish. The oil spill’s impact on the marsh grass is expected to be long-term and widespread; it could lead to increased erosion and an increase in the salinity of the water, which will negatively affect habitats in the coastal waters.
As an example of the interactions that take place within an ecosystem and how the spill is upsetting them, an important fish in Florida, the Atlantic tarpon- a bluefish tuna- travel long distances to spawn in an area of warm water filled with nutrients flowing from the Mississippi River, close to the oil spill. These fish breed from April to mid-May, and the young ones are more susceptible to the toxins from the oil. When they die unnaturally this way, it upsets the predator-prey relationship as there won’t be the regular amount of the tarpon the prey is used to, which create complications for these prey unless they have or find other sources of food.

Atlantic Tarpon
Atlantic Tarpon

Chapter 2

Food chains are models which show energy flowing from plant to animal and from animal to animal, and food webs are models of the feeding relationships in an ecosystem. Each trophic level is very important; the energy flow starts from the first trophic level at the bottom and works its way up to the top which is the fourth trophic level. In the case of the oil spill, as bacteria and phytoplankton take in nutrients, the carcinogenic* hydrocarbons in crude oil will also be taken up by these primary producers which in turn will be eaten by primary consumers like krill-which are keystone species because they might play an important role in recycling nutrients in ocean ecosystems. They travel daily in large numbers from deeper waters to the ocean’s surface to feed on algae, and this constant movement stirs up nutrients important to organisms in the ocean. They are also a vital energy source for some marine animals which travel long distances to eat them- the primary consumers are then taken up by organisms at the higher trophic levels. The higher up the trophic level an organism is, the more it consumes, meaning that the toxins build up in the animals and cause a lot of harm and death. There is little known about the half-life of these chemicals in oil in the ocean, including hydrocarbons, so they could remain in marine life for a number of years before breaking down.


Terrestial and Aquatic Ecosystem
Terrestial and Aquatic Ecosystem

The emission of carbon is another problem with the oil spill. Oil is a long-term store for carbon, and when it is released carbon is emitted. The amount of oil spilling is at least 200 000 gallons (755 000 litres) a day, so a lot of carbon is being emitted, which leads to a lot of problems; the natural carbon cycle can't keep up with the amount of carbon in the atmosphere so it can't store all of it, contributing immensely to global warming.

Chapters 2.3 and 3

Human activities have been upsetting ecosystems and causing a lot of problems for the environment. The oil spill is due to humans exploiting natural resources and the results have been devastating. Already, the contaminated water has killed a lot of animals not limited to endangered turtles, birds, marine mammals like dolphins, and fish. Loss of habitat in the Gulf continues on daily. Efforts are being made to control the oil spill, however, the chemicals being used to clean up the oil could worsen conditions. Oil is organic and can biodegrade naturally, these chemicals being used can be even more toxic than the oil and cause a lot of damage to the environment, and it might take unusually longer for the impacted areas to recover.
Oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico
Oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico

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Human Activities Influencing Climate

Ever since the Industrial Revolution, humans have been affecting earth's climate negatively. These negative effects keep increasing as we find more ways to make our lives as 'comfortable' as possible.

Global Warming

This is one aspect of climate change which is influenced by humans. Global warming is the increase in global average temperature, and this occurs because of an increase in the emission of greenhouse gases. Greenhouse gases are responsible for keeping Earth's temperature in a certain range by absorbing and emitting some of the solar radiation that reaches Earth's surface, however, the immense growth in manufacturing, transportation, and industry (because of the Industrial Revolution) has caused it to increase dramatically.

Natural Greenhouse Effect
Natural Greenhouse Effect

Most of the sun's radiation is absorbed by the Earth and
warms it.
Some energy is radiated back into space by the Earth in the
form of infrared waves.
Some of the outgoing infrared radiation is trapped by the
atmosphere and warms it.

Greenhouse Gases:

Carbon Dioxide (CO2): The CO2 in the atmosphere has greatly increased.The burning of fossil fuels; such as oil, gas, and coal release large amounts of carbon, and this is the biggest source of carbon emission resulting from human activities. Deforestation-cutting and burning down trees without replacing them- is another factor contributing to carbon emission; when trees are cut down, they cannot remove CO2 from the atmosphere and store it (they cannot act as carbon sinks).

Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs):
These are man- made greenhouse gases made of carbon, chlorine, and fluorine. They are used for air conditioner and refrigerator coolants, and also in aerosol spray cans and fire extinguishers. CFCs are thought to be mainly responsible for the depletion of the ozone layer, which is responsible for protecting Earth from harmful UV rays from the sun. When CFCs reach the atmosphere, the chlorine atoms get released and break apart O3 molecules, thinning out the ozone layer.

Methane (CH4): A gas which is very effective at absorbing and emitting thermal energy, and is 25 times more powerful than CO2. Methane is released during the process of animal digestion, decomposing garbage in landfills, processing of fossil fuels, and rice paddies. the amount of methane in the atmosphere has increased by more than 150 percent since 1750, and this is thought to be related to rapid population growth.

Nitrous Oxide (N2O): The third largest contributor to the enhanced greenhouse effect, although it is present in small amounts. It is released during improper disposal of human and animal waste, automobile exhausts, nitrogen-rich chemical fertilizers, and the biological processes of bacteria in ocean water, soil, and manure.

This following video shows examples of greenhouse emissions and the impact it has on our planet.

Note Of Advice

No matter how much we talk about our effects on climate and steps we can take to improve it, there doesn't seem to be enough being done about it, however, this does NOT mean that we shouldn't make an effort, because every little action counts.