Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

Contents 1 Biomes and Ecosystems
1.1 Biomes
1.2 Ecosystems
2 Energy Flow and Nutrient Cycles
2.1 Energy Flow in Ecosystems
2.2 + 3.1 Carbon Cycle and
Natural Changes
2.3 Effects of Bioaccumulation
3 Changes in Ecosystems
3.2 Human Influences
3.3 Invasive Species
The Deepwater Horizon oil spill also known as the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and the BP oil spill has been an ongoing crisis over the past month that has released over 12,000 to 19,000 barrels of oil approximately each day – that’s the equivalent of 53 Olympic swimming pools filled with oil each day! This oil spill has directly effected many animals’ habitat in the Gulf of Mexico and many people have been wondering, how many more? How many more animals will have to suffer from consequences of human activities? How harmful is the oil to the environment? When will the oil stop leaking from the pipe? These questions have been on the mind of many people around the world, yet there are no clues to how big of an environmental disaster this oil spill actually is, and how harmful it will become as years pass by.

Biomes and Ecosystems


The Gulf of Mexico is surrounded by three terrestrial biomes including the Tropical Rainforest, the Grasslands, and the Desert. The aquatic environment is being greatly effected by this disaster because many animals such as the brown pelican have died from being drenched in oil slick and consuming the toxic oil. The marine aquatic biome is being torn apart due to the amounts of gas being released with the oil and unbalancing the natural amounts of gas in the ocean. Sooner or later, the terrestrial biome will be greatly effected as well because many terrestrial animals need to eat marine animals, which are dying.


One of the biggest abiotic interactions in the environment playing a role in the movement of the oil spill is the amount of sunlight being received right now. The amount of sunlight being received is caused by the tilt in the Earth’s axis - which also causes season. The season approaching the Gulf of Mexico is summer, and summer always decides to bring hurricanes along with him. The hurricanes will play a big factor in the movement of the oil spill and will obviously make the oil spill a much bigger environmental disaster to clean up. Somegulf-oil-spill-killing-wildlife-gull_21357_600x450.jpg other abiotic interactions that are important to the environment include the amount of oxygen in the ocean, the sunlight being available to organisms that photosynthesize, and the amounts of other nutrients the organisms in the ocean will receive. All of these abiotic factors are being disturbed with the oil spill in many different ways, such as the amount of sunlight being received in the ocean. As the oil spill covers more area, it will cover up more sunlight causing more photosynthesizing organisms to die. As these organisms die, it will slowly start to effect the other organisms in the marine aquatic biome. One of the biggest symbiotic relationships that will take place during the time that follows this oil spill will be competition. Many organisms will be competing for resources such as food, habitat, water, and sunlight. This will greatly effect the numbers of all organisms in the Gulf of Mexico. Along with competition, other symbiotic relationships such as commensalism, parasitism, and predation will grow immensely with more and more organisms trying to survive the oil spill. While these aquatic organisms try to survive the oil spill, their niche in the ecosystem will be completely altered and cause the numbers of organisms to drop drastically. As the numbers of all the organisms are being effected, the biodiversity in the ecosystem will be greatly disturbed in upcoming years as the direct result of habitat loss.

Energy Flow and Nutrient Cycles

Energy Flow in Ecosystems

A general food chain in the Gulf of Mexico consists of primary producers such as algae, or plankton and follows with primary consumers such as oysters, then with secondary consumers such as brown pelicans, and then topped off with alligators as the tertiary consumer. This food chain would be greatly harmed because as the oil starts to cover up the top of the ocean, it covers the sunlight with it. This would be harmful to the plankton because it gets its energy from the sun. As the plankton die, the food chain would slowly start to starve the primary consumer and slowly drive up the food chain killing more and more animals. A food web in the Gulf of Mexico would look like this:
This diagram shows how energy flows from the producers to consumers in an ecosystem. If one of the producers were to die out, it would greatly but slowly effect the numbers of all of the other organisms in the food web. As these organisms die, the ecological pyramid of numbers, and biomass would dramatically decrease and cause an imbalance in the ecosystem.

Carbon Cycle and Natural Changes

With more than approximately 20,000 barrels of oil being released into the Gulf of Mexico each day, the effect of this still has to take a toll on the carbon cycle. As millions of litres of oil containing carbon flows into the ocean, one must realize how long it took to store this carbon in the ocean floor, and how rapidly it is being taken out of the ocean floor. It takes millions of years for carbon to store while it takes a couple of minutes to extract this oil form the ground and use. With the amount of oil coming out, it will make a huge impact on the carbon cycle due to the imbalance between the stores and other regions that contain carbon – but nobody knows what this big impact will be. One of the impacts on organisms that are known to us is plankton not being able to receive energy from the sun to photosynthesize. As the oil covers the tops of the ocean, the sunlight will be blocked by the oil plumes and cause the plankton to die. What is going to be interesting to see is that which animals within species survive this oil spill, and adapt to the situation over the next couple of years through natural selection and adaptive radiation. Natural selection is the process in which members of a species having certain characteristics which give them an advantage over others members of the species. Adaptive radiation is the term used to describe the change from a common ancestor into a number of different species that radiate out to inhabit different niches. Hopefully some animals survive this environmental disaster and repopulate this area.

Effects of Bioaccumulation

With all this oil going into the ocean, everyone must be wondering what would happen if an animal accidentally consumed the oil? Well, first of all the oil would start to build up in the organism which has consumed it through a process known as bioaccumulation. The bioaccumulation process can be harmful to the organism if the accumulation of the substance is too high, but if it isn’t a process known as biomagnification will take place. Biomagnification is the process in which chemicals not only accumulate but become more and more concentrated at each trophic level. This process has already harmed the once endangered brown pelican through other harmful chemicals which had been washed into the ocean. Also, the toxic level of oil is 5 parts per million, whereas the toxic level in the Gulf of Mexico is 7 times greater! To fix these problems such as these, scientists use the natural process of bioremediation. Bioremediation is the use of living thing to do the clean-up process of environmental disasters, naturally, but through biodegradation. I wouldn’t say this process is totally natural because obviously you are adding a species that had never lived in an area. This may be the key to fixing the whole disaster caused by human activities.

Changes in Ecosystems

Human Influences

Humans play a huge role in the way our ecosystem runs. We have altered Earth so much, that a caveman wouldn’t be able to recognize where he is – if he were alive. One of the biggest things that humans have done in the past 500 years is contaminated the habitats of other organisms. o01_23681845.jpgThis has resulted in the habitat loss of many organisms in many different ecosystems due to human activities. Hopefully this will not be the case in the Gulf of Mexico. We need to take a sustainable approach of the use of fuels such as oil in this case. We should take a better look at more efficient ways for everything that we do in our lives - then we wouldn’t need all the oil. In this particular case, it seems to me as if this disaster was caused because of resource exploitation and the greed for money. Optimistically, all of these problems don’t lead to the biggest problem of a decrease in biodiversity and in some cases, extinction.

Invasive Species

Invasive species are organisms that can take over the habitat of native species or invade their bodies therefore weakening their immune system. In the Gulf of Mexico, BP is adding an oil dispersants known as Corexit EC9500A and Corexit EC9527A. These dispersants are neither the most effective, nor the least toxic of the dispersants approved by the Environmental Protection Agency. These dispersants may act as an invasive species later on as we see the effects of the oil spill because of their toxic levels. These dispersants may also bioaccumulate or biomagnify within organisms which live in the Gulf of Mexico. In my eyes, BP isn’t doing well enough for the safety of the organisms in the Gulf of Mexico, or else they would’ve listened to scientists doing research of the effects of the dispersants on organisms. If BP had decided to bring in bacteria, and go through the process of bioremediation, they could’ve became an invasive species and totally altered the ecosystem, so in a way it was a good idea for the use of dispersants.

I thought that the idea of incorporating modern technology into classrooms is great way of keeping up to modern science and not just studying "historical science" from our textbooks. I believe that using wikispaces to present our work is not only a great way to stay up to date with current events but also with learning the concepts within our textbooks.

“BP Cap Collects Oil as Undersea Plumes Mapped” June 4th 2010 <>
“Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill” June 4th 2010 <>
“Oil Spill Cleanup Braces for Hurricane Season” June 5th 2010 <>
Keim, Brandon “>
Grant, Bob “Oil Spill is Boon to Bacteria” June 5th 2010 <>
Scannell, Kara and Barkley, Tom “>
Mason, Betsy “Gulf Oil Spill Could Spread to Atlantic Coast” June 6th 2010 <>
Rosenwaks, Gaelin “Oils Spills Environmental Cost” June 6th 2010 <>
“Newly Discovered Plume Near an Underwater Canyon Off Florida Poses a Danger to Sea Life” Undersea Oil Plume May Poison Sealife Food Chain
June 6th 2010 <>
Shapely, Dan “From the lowly plover to the stately snowy egret, the Gulf Coast provides habitat for countless birds, and is significant for the preservation of many species, including several rare and endangered birds. See which species of birds the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico could affect.
16 Birds Threatened by the BP Gulf Oil Spill June 6th 2010
“Brown pelican, Louisiana's state bird, imperiled by Gulf of Mexico oil spill” 2010 GULF OF MEXICO OIL SPILL June 6th 2010 < >

Topic 5: How Do Human Activities Affect Our Climate?

Many people are sceptical about climate change occurring, and there are many people who still either do not believe, do not know, or do not care that climate change is happening – but if it is happening, then many biomes are being affected which is resulting in people and animals dying. What if this “global warming” is just a natural process that occurs every so often? There is much evidence that state that the Earth has even before gone through periods of heating and cooling, andglobaltemp.jpg even large events such as the Ice Age have occurred several times. So, is global warming something that we really need to worry about?

Before the Industrial Revolution, the amount of carbon dioxide in the air was stable due to the carbon cycle but the beginning of the Industrial Revolution marked a significant moment. The amount of carbon dioxide since then has now gone up more than 100 ppm. The Industrial Revolution came with the increase and growth in the industry, manufacturing, and transportation which resulted in more fossil fuels being burned to support this big growth. The fossil fuels that were being burnt released large amounts of carbon into the air and have been the greatest source of carbon being released due to human activities. Another source of the great amount of carbon dioxide in the air is deforestation. Deforestation is a process in which humans log, burn, or clear a forest for their profit. This has made a big impact towards the amount of carbon dioxide in the air. This has resulted in many plants, trees, and forests not being able to convert the carbon dioxide into oxygen and major carbon sinks forming. The carbon dioxide only results for 25% of the greenhouse gas effect, but this 25% is rapidly growing.

Carbon dioxide may be one of the most greenhouse gas released in the air by humans, but there are many other greenhouse gases in the air that result in much more damage. Consider methane, it has a global warming potential (GWP) of 25 and it is 25 times more harmful than carbon dioxide. A major source of this methane comes from the decomposing garbage in landfills, and the process of animal digestion. Methane since the 1750’s has increased by more than 150 times due to the rapid growth of the human population. Another major greenhouse gas is nitrous oxide. Nitrous oxide has 298 times the harmful effect of carbon dioxide which is very significant. But there is one more major greenhouse gas that people don’t realize can cause a much more devastating effect than the previously stated gases. Chlorofluorocarbons (also known as CFCs) have a GWP from 4750 – 5310. CFCs are used in many coolants for refrigerators, air conditioners and many aerosol cans. When CVCs reach the atmosphere they start to break down the ozone layers. In the 1970’s scientists discovered that large amount of these CFCs were reaching the stratosphere and they are also thought to be the main reason for the big hole in the ozone layer above Antarctica. This hole in the ozone layer could potentially cause the effects of global warming to increase significantly, while also allowing large amounts of solar radiation to reach the Earth’s surface. All of these gases, and many other traces of some other harmful gases result for 10% of the greenhouse gas effect but considering the numbers of the GWPs given above, all these combined, result to almost 39 485 000 times worse than carbon dioxide on its own.

Last but not least, the biggest greenhouse gas of all of these is something you would never imagine. Water vapour is the biggest contributor of the greenhouse gas effect. It results for almost 65% of the greenhouse gas effect and it is very harmful. An increase of 1% of water vapour in the atmosphere could potentially raise the average global temperature by almost by 4 degrees Celsius. Although human activities do not directly influence the amount of water vapour in the atmosphere, we do in a big way indirectly. If you think about it, the other greenhouse gasesRadiation_Budget.gif that human activities do release, cause the melting of ice caps and glaciers and a rise in the temperature. In relativity to the Kinetic Molecular Theory, the rise in temperature can cause the water in the ocean to rise as water vapour, thus indirectly an effect of human activities.

You see all the problems that we have but what can we humans potentially do to help resolve our predicament. There are many energy efficient appliances and some vehicles that have been created, but there is a product that we all should know about, yet it is not brought up that often. Hemp is a very durable fibre can be used in multiple ways. Hemp can be used to make many things including paper, textiles, biodegradable products, construction, health food, as fuel, and medical purposes. Hemp is also very environmentally friendly because it requires very little pesticides and no herbicides. The only downside to this is that the United States have banned this due to hemp being a cannabis. But in my opinion, hemp has too many good aspects to be overlooked and could be very well a very important part of our future.

Climate change is happening, and it’s happening right now! As humans, we should be able to understand that we are going to be harming the future of the Earth, and even maybe, your own children. Humans have sped up the natural process of the Earth’s own climate by emitting such harmful gases in the atmosphere. Therefore, I believe global warming is something that everyone should be worrying about, and especially if we in the first place, have been harming the environment for more than a two centuries. Everyone should be taking steps to reduce their own carbon footprints by even doing very small things, such as turning of your light, walking to school, and recycling. If many people become leaders and start to take small steps towards helping the environment, it will lead them later to be someone that everyone followed and made a positive change.


“Global Warming” 24 April 2010 <>
University of Leicester “Greenhouse Theory Smashed by Biggest Stone” 24 April 2010 <>
“Global Warming Controversy” 24 April 2010 <>
“Carbon Sink” 24 April 2010 <>
“Hemp” 24 April 2010 <>

Sandner, Lionel and Fatkin, Glen and Lacy, Donald and Martha, Josef and Milross, James and Naso, Karen. BC Science 10. Canada: McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 2008