Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill

On April 20 2010, something devastating happened. The Deepwater Horizon oil platform exploded. The oil leaking out of it is a huge threat to the biome, ecosystems and the organisms within them.


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A biome includes large regions that have similar biotic components, such as similar plants and animals, and similar abiotic components, such as similar temperature and amount of rainfall. This oil spill will affect surrounding terrestrial biomes such as the tropical rain forest and some deserts. But the spill will mainly affect aquatic biomes. There are two types of aquatic biomes. Freshwater and Saltwater. The Gulf of Mexico is a marine biome. Precipitation doesn't matter much in an open ocean biome and the climate stays the same year round, so sea creatures do not have to adapt to changing seasons. But one example of an adaptationturks_scuba_sponges.jpgcould be how some ocean animals like sponges and anemones are attached to one place all of their life so these animals grab or suck their food as it passes by on the ocean current. This is a behaviour adaptation. A behavioral adaptation refers to what an organism does to survive in unique conditions of its environment. The two to other types of adaptations are called structural and physiological adaptations. The biotic features of an ocean biome include algae, sea grasses and kelp. Zooplankton, fish, whales and rays are also biotic features.
An ecosystem has abiotic components such as oxygen, water, nutrients, light and soil that interact with biotic components such as plants, animals and micro-organisms. Ecosystems in the Gulf of Mexico will be severely damaged by the oil spill. The habitats of many organisms living in these ecosystems will be destroyed. The oil will also affect the amount of clean water, good oxygen, and light available to the biotic components. Organisms may no longer be able to complete there niches which could potentially affect predator-prey relationships. Humans have severely destroyed much of this ecosystem and it may be hard to maintain its biodiversity.

In ecosystems the organism obtains food energy from the ecosystem and the organism also contributes energy to the ecosystem, this is called energy flow. The Deepwater Horizon oil spill is affecting several abiotic and biotic components in the ecosystem. If the oil first reaches the producers, it will be damaged. After an organism eats that producer or plant, the consumer will now be contaminated by the oil as well. The carbon from the oil could also gradually accumulate. For example if algae was affected by the oil and it was eaten up by a crab or primary consumer in small amounts. That crab would now be affected too. Then lets say a small fish came along and ate some crabs. Next maybe some salmon had a bunch of fish. These secondary consumers would now be contaminated too. The salmon would eventually be eaten up in huge amounts by an orca or tertiary consumer. The carbon would become more concentrated with each trophic level so we’d also see biomagnifications of the carbon. This devastating oil spill could affect food pyramids, chains and webs. What would make this even worse would be if a keystone species was affected by the bioacculmation of the carbon from the oil spill. If there was a decline in sea turtles in the Gulf of Mexico the entire ecosystem would be affected. If one organism is affected or wiped out the whole food chain and web will collapse causing a severe problem in the ecosystem and biome.
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“On April 28, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimated that the leak was likely 5,000 barrels (210,000 US gallons; 790,000 liters) a day, five times larger than initially estimated by BP”. Since oil is mainly composed of carbon and hydrogen this oil spill is mainly affecting the carbon cycle in this ecosystem. The ocean is a long-term store for carbon and marine animals are short-term stores for carbon therefore the ecosystem of the Gulf of Mexico contains hold more carbon. Photosynthesis, respiration, decomposition, ocean processes all move carbon through ecosystems naturally. But with all this oil added into the ecosystem some of these ways for moving oil through ecosystems may become difficult or nearly impossible. Photosynthesis is a chemical reaction that converts solar energy into chemical energy. Well because of the oil spill plants can no longer get the sunlight required for photosynthesis. Photosynthesis also makes useable energy for producers in the form of carbohydrates, so by eating plants, consumers obtain energy and take carbon into their cells. So food pyramids could also be affected by this. Because of ocean currents and mixing the oil spill will soon begin to affect more then the just the ecosystems of the Gulf of Mexico. Cold water will sink towards the tropics or the warm water of the tropics will rise and contaminate other bodies of water. Some of this CO2 will also be released to the tropical atmosphere when ocean currents carry the water from the Gulf of Mexico back towards polar areas, which will affect that particular terrestrial biome. The oil could reach the water near Florida, North Caroline, Louisiana and other bodies of water on the Atlantic Coast, affecting those ecosystems as well. To see how the oil has spread, go here: http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/oil-spill-map.htm

So what can we do to reduce the effects of chemical pollution cause by this oil spill? We could watch and wait, use Chemical and biological agents, skim the water, use a controlled fire or use bioremediation. Bioremediation is the use of living organisms --usually micro-organisms or plants--to do the clean up naturally, only faster though biodegradation. The problem that might come with bioremediation is that the plants or micro-organisms being involved in bioremediation may be harmed and the concentration of chemicals or detergents used to clean up this oil spill could cause environmental nightmares of its own. The use of chemical detergents or even using a plant for bioremediation to clean up the oil spill introduce foreign species to the ecosystem. These foreign species added to the ecosystems of the Gulf of Mexico could potentially take over the habitat of native species or invade their bodies. Invasive species reproduce rapidly, are aggrieve competitors and lack natural predators in new habitats. If we use bioremediation to clean up the oil spill that plant or micro-organism may actually cause more damage to the ecosystems in the Gulf of Mexico then help it. It may compete against native species for essential resources. These invasive species could be a large threat on a prey population because that population may not have adaptations to escape or fight them. These foreign species may also cause disease to the species already habiting the Gulf of Mexico. Lastly, the species introduced into the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem from bioremediation may make it’s natural habitat unsuitable for native species and reduce biodiversity. Invasive species are a serious threat to biodiversity. Foreign species may make light levels change even more or decrease the amount of oxygen dissolved in water. The foreign species added from bioremediation could worsen the effects of the oil spill as they can upset the balance of nutrient cycling and energy flow. So the question is, do we use bioremediation to clean this disaster up or do wait and let nature do the work? It could upset the ecological balance of the ecosystems in the Gulf of Mexico which would result in severe damage to the environment and the damage would persist for decades or it could potentially help to clean up the spill.

This oil spill was all due to human activities. All this damage that has happened and will happen is completely our fault. Humans have been using oil for thousands of years. But as the demand for oil increases, sustainability becomes an issue. Eventually all the oil will run out due to overexploitation. We need to find a a way to use the resources of the ecosystem of the Gulf of Mexico or any other ecosystem without reducing the function and health of that ecosystem or the ability of future generations to meet their needs.


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Drilling of oil can disturb fragile ecosystems. But oil has also brought many benefits to humans. We depend on this resource exploitation and demand it. But then you’ve also got to look at the other side of it, it contributes to air and water pollution. Transporting oil can endanger wildlife and the environment if it spills into rivers or oceans, which it has. The leaking underground storage tanks of the Deepwater Horizon us polluting underground water. Processing oil at the refinery can contribute to air and water pollution and burning gasoline to fuel our cars contributes to air pollution. The oil spill has caused habitat loss and secondary succession will not be able to occur. It’s also cause much contamination. For example, marine animals that are exposed to the oil may be venerable to Kidney damage, altered liver function, and digestive tract irritation, dehydration and metabolic imbalances. The oil spill had endangered 7 animals including Blue Fin Tuna, Sa Turtles, Dolphins and Brown Pelicans. “Last year, the bircapt_eaa8f75dbe634e9cbff10fbce3f1acde-eaa8f75dbe634e9cbff10fbce3f1acde-0.jpgds were officially taken off the endangered species list. But the oil spill, experts said, could change that.” If these species were to go extinct they’d have a big effect of food webs. They’re predators would need to find new food sources and so on up the food chain/pyramid. large_spill.jpg

This disastrous oil spill has taught us just how awful exploiting our resources can be and how much damage it has on biomes, ecosystems, habitats and the organisms living in them. Oil is still gushing into the Gulf of Mexico and nobody really to what extent the damage will be, but we all know, it wont be good.









BIBLIOGRAPHY
“7 Animals Endangered by the Gulf Oil Spill”, Environmental Graffiti. 05 June 2010 < http://www.environmentalgraffiti.com/news-6-animals-facing-death-due-bp-oil-spill>
BC SCIENCE 10. Canada:McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 2008
“Gulf of Mexico large marine ecosystem”, The Encyclopedia of Earth. 04 June 2010 <http://www.eoearth.org/article/Gulf_of_Mexico_large_marine_ecosystem>
“Gulf Oil Spill Could Spread to Atlantic Coast”, Wired Science. June 03. 05 June 2010 <__http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2010/06/gulf-oil-could-spread-to-atlantic-coast/__>
“Ocean Plant Life”, The Ocean Biome. 04 June 2010 < http://chalk.richmond.edu/education/projects/webunits/biomes/oceans.html>
“Oil spill imperils an unseen world at the bottom of the gulf”, The Washington Post. 04 June 2010 <http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/05/15/AR2010051503636.html>
“Pelicans, Back From Brink of Extinction, Face Oil Threat”, The New York Times. June 04. 05 June 2010 < http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/05/us/05pelican.html>
“Petroleum“, The Need Project. 04 June 2010 http://www.need.org/needpdf/infobook_activities/SecInfo/PetroS.pdf



I think that using wiki-spaces as a method of presenting our work is a way for us to be creative. I like that we can now use pictures in our work, it makes it alot easier. It gives us a new, fresh way to do our work. It's something different which I like. I also think that since we are always computers anyways, why not incorporate more technology into school. But despite this, I would prefer to just use paper and a pen. I find it much easier and sitting infront of a computer and doing a project at the same time does not work for me, it's very easy to get distracted and ends up taking much more time that is needed to complete a project. I also find it easier to get my ideas onto paper rather then on word or wiki and that way I don't have to worry about the pictures not showing up or not being able to get it in the right place or loosing connection and losing all my work. Maybe I'm just technically challenged but I found it difficult to get the pictures and the format of the text the way i wanted it. I'd like to stick to paper. :)








How Climate Can Be Influenced By Human Activities

"I think it is manmade. I think it's clearly manmade. If you don't understand what the cause is, it's virtually impossible to come up with a solution. We know what the cause is. The cause is manmade. That's the cause. That's why the polar icecap is melting." (Joe Biden) Well the only cause of climate change may not be just be because of the activities we do but humans certainly do influence climate change.

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It’s clear that our activities and lifestyles of humans have impacted the environment. Human activities contribute to climate change by causing changes in Earth's atmosphere by releasing greenhouse gases. The largest contribution of greenhouse gases come from the burning of fossil fuels, which releases carbon dioxide. Greenhouse gases can affect the atmosphere and ozone layer which can lead to a warmer or cooler climate. Since the Industrial Revolution humans have been burning a large number of fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas. This enhances the greenhouse effect. The enchanced greenhouse effect is the increased capacity of the environment to absorb and emit thermal energy because of an increase of greenhouse gases. Human activities result in four main greenhouse gases: carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxides and halocarbons. The effect of the Industrial Revolution has been a warming one. enhanced_greenhouse_effect.gif

Carbon Dioxide

With the growth of industry, manufacturing and transportation came an increase of the use of fossil fuels. Fossil fuels contain large amounts of carbon which is released when these fuels are burned. So things like driving around in our hummers or big trucks, really isn’t doing much good for our environment. Fossil fuel combustion is the largest carbon source coming from human activity. Since trees are major carbon sinks, when these trees are cut down they releases a large amount of carbon into the atmosphere. Deforestation adds to amount of unnecessary carbon going into the atmosphere. Deforestation also increases the albedo and cause a drier climate. The loss of trees means there a fewer trees to abosrb CO2. Carbon Dioxide traps heat by reflecting radiating heat back to earth rather then allowing it to radiate to space. The more gases we have the more it reflects and the warmer it gets and the warmer it gets, the more ice will melt allowing more solar radiation to absorb into the oceans, adding to the global warming affect.

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There's a clear link between the amount of CO2 and the temperature

Methane

The increase in methane is a result of human activities related to agriculture, coal-mining, natural gas distribution, processing fossil fuels, rice paddies and landfills. Methane is 25 times more efficient at absorbing and emitting the heat radiating from earth’s surface than CO2. The increase in the increased level of methane is thought to be due to the rapid growth of population.

Nitrous Oxide
Nitrous Oxide is the third largest contributor to the enhanced greenhouse effect. Automobile exhaust, burning wastes, industrial processes and production of chemical fertilizations are all sources of N2O. N2O contibutes 6% to the greenhouse effect.
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CFC’s
CFC's come directly from human activities. The main use of CFC is as liquid coolants for fridges and in air conditioning. They have a very powerful global warming potential, one that’s 4750-5310 times as powerful than carbon. Even though there are lower concentrations of CFC's in the atmosphere than there is of carbon, CFC's trap more heat and stay in the atmospshere for 110 years. These powerful gases can cause ozone depletion. CFC’s are the main reason for the ozone thinning and also for the large hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica. If the ozone layer continues to thin we’ll get much warmer weather, it could even go up to an inhabitable temperature because it would allow more solar radiation to reach earth’s surface.

If the level of greenhous gases humans release into the atmosphere continues to rise we could see an average glabal temperature rise of 1.5-4.5 degreees Celcius by the year 2030 --which'll make the world hotter then its ever been in the past 100 000 years. We'll seen storms, droughts and floods more often. We need to do something about this now, before it becomes too late. We need to stop the warming, which would mean us using up less fossil fuels, cutting back on deforestation and elminating CFC's. Humans are to blame for global warming so humans should be the one's to fix this.


BIBLIOGRAPHY
BC SCIENCE 10. Canada:McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 2008
"Climate Change 101", Health Policy Research Bulletin. 24 April 2010. <http://www.bvsde.paho.org/bvsacd/cd68/KClarke.pdf>
"Enhanced Greenhouse Effect -a Hot International Topic", NOVA Science In The News. 24 April 2010. <http://www.science.org.au/nova/016/016key.htm>"Global Warming", Young People's Trust for the Environment. 25 April 2010. <http://www.ypte.org.uk/environmental/global-warming/11>
"Greenhouse Gases and Greenhouse Effect", World of Earth Science. 24 April 2010. <http://www.enotes.com/earth-science/greenhouse-gases-greenhouse-effect>

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