Gulf of Mexico oil spill: Causes and affects

The oil spill began from an explosion which was from a BP offshore rig in the Gulf of Mexico and has now reached the shoreline. The leak is currently releasing 5000 barrels of
oil per day and is on track to become the worst oil spill in history. Efforts to manage the spill with controlled burning, dispersal, and plugging the leak haven’t been successful. This oil spill is affecting many habitats and biomes and this project will cover the affects of the oil spill with relation to the factors from unit 1.

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. There are eight terrestrial, or land-based biomes. Temperature and precipitation are two of the most important abiotic factors that influence the characteristics of biomes. Climate is the average pattern of weather conditions that occur in a region. The oil spill is affecting the aquatic biome which includes fresh water and salt water. Salt water is affected due to the spill in the ocean. The tropical rainforest biome is affected due to the oil spill being near it. The climate is changing along with the temperature.

Biotic & Abiotic factors:
The abiotic components of an ecosystem support the life functions of the biotic components of an ecosystem. A habitat is the place in which an organism lives. Many habitats are affected due to the spill. The organisms in the ocean water are harmed which affects their reproduction cycle and it reduces their search for food. Habitats around the
oil spill are also affected. Nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus are chemicals that are required for plants and animal growth. With the oil spill affecting the various plant and animal life, it is difficult for these biotic components to gain energy. The oil is bursting from under the sea and is washing up to the shorelines affecting the land based animals. The oil has definitely contaminated the ocean and the marine life is in danger.
external image large_spill.JPG oil-spill.jpg
In an ecosystem, energy flows from producers, the plants, to primary consumers such as the herbivores. From there, it flows to secondary and tertiary consumers, the carnivores. Food chains and food webs model this energy flow and these feeding relationships. A trophic level refers to a step in the food chain. Food pyramids model how energy is lost at each trophic level in an ecosystem. The plants in the ocean and around it are harmed due to the oil spill. When the herbivores eat the plants, the oil may harm them and can even cause death. This affects the food chain, because now if the carnivores consume the herbivores, they have also consumed the oil. The oil spill has affected the predator-prey relationship.

The nutrient cycle is affected by many human activities such as land clearing, agriculture, urban expansion, mining, industry and motorized transportation. The nutrient cycle is not in balance due to the spill and the amounts flowing to the store are not the same to the amounts flowing out. The three main types of cycles are the carbon cycle, nitrogen cycle and the phosphorus cycle. These cycles move nutrients though terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. Carbon is an essential component in the chemical reactions that sustain life, such as cellular respiration. Carbon is stored in vegetation on land, in plants in oceans, in land-based and marine animals and in decaying organic matter in soil. The oil spill has a major impact on the carbon cycle. The flow of carbon in and out of the stores have been disrupted. There is a large amount of carbon in the Gulf right now but may decrease dramatically in the near future. The processes of photosynthesis and cellular respiration are also affected.
carbon_cycle.png FoodChain.gif

The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has caused many chemicals to enter the environment in air, water and soil. Many plants take up these chemicals and the chemicals bioaccumulate in the fat tissue of herbivores and carnivores. These chemicals have become biomagnified in food pyramids and harm organisms. Many methods have been used including bioremediation in which organisms are used to help clean up chemical pollution.

Many changes occur in the ecosystem which affect the biotic and abiotic factors. This is exactly what the oil spill has done. Many organisms have tried to adapt to these changes which the oil spill has caused through natural selection but it has been unsuccessful. If the organisms do have trouble adapting in, death may be a factor they face. To prevent problems of these sort, we as human-beings should be more careful and use our oil resources within the limits. This oil spill is clearly an example of habitat loss. This was a destruction of habitats resulted from human activities. The Gulf of Mexico oil spill can cause extinction which is the dying out of a species. Over exploitation affects food webs .One group will increase while the other will decrease and this can be an issue while searching food. Overall, the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has caused damage for many organisms and species. These issues should be taken into consideration and different methods to fix the problem should be applied. Problems of these sort cannot be avoided and trying to fix it now will be the best for the organisms and for ourselves. Change is needed and we are the ones who should step up and make our ecosystem cleaner, healthier and pollution free!

By: Casey DeMoss Roberts, MSPH is GRN's Assistant Director of Water Resources.
“ A Closer Look at Dispersants”
Public Heath Impacts, Wildlife Impacts
June 4rd, 2010

“ Oil Spill”
Environmental effects
June 4th 2010

By: Steven Mufson
“Ezra Klein’s Wonkbook”
Gulf of Mexico oil spill creates environmental and political dilemmas
June 5th 2010

From my point of view, using Wiki spaces was a good idea to do projects of these sort. I personally enjoyed using the website because it was much easier to edit my information and put it in a organized order. Using technology to present information is a smart alternative rather then printing out the information because we are saving paper and getting our point across. I wouldn't mind doing a similar project in the future where I can involve technology in presenting my project. Using the wiki was easy, fast and effective.

What changes can society make in order to deal with the problems associated with climate change?

  • What lifestyle changes can individuals make to minimize damage to the environment?

  1. There are many things, we as individuals can do to help reduce the damages within our environment. Global warming is the main cause to the climate changing consistently. The main thing to do is: REDUCE, REUSE & RECYCLE! You should buy things that can be reused instead of disposables. Recycling paper, plastic, glass, aluminum cans and other things you can save 2400 pounds of carbon dioxide annually.
  2. Another main reason for global warming is the amount of gasoline our vehicles use. When the routes are short, chose to walk instead of driving. This way you are saving the planet and getting some exercise while you at it. Public transit is also a smart alternative instead of driving alone. Car-pooling also helps. Every gallon of gas keeps 20 pounds of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.
  3. Conserving energy is a must! To get started, you should buy energy efficient products. Changing an incandescent light bulb with compact fluorescent light. These bulbs last 10 times longer than normal light bulbs, use two-thirds less energy and give off 70% less heat. If every U.S family replaced a regular bulb with a CFL it would eliminate 90 billion pounds of greenhouse gases, the same as taking 7.5 million cars off the road.
  4. Save electricity and reduce global warming by turning off electronics when not in use. It is also a good idea to turn off water when you are not using it for example when brushing your teeth, shampooing and washing your car, turn off the water until you actually need it to rinse. Another smart thing to do would be to plant more trees. A single tree will absorb one ton of carbon dioxide during its lifetime.

  • What strategies can cities and communities take to address climate change?

  1. Cities and communities can work together as a whole to address the problems affecting climate change. To start off, factors causing climate change should be observed such as wasting too much energy, not recycling and emitting carbon dioxide into the air. From there, everyone should contribute to saving our planet. If everyone changes their lifestyle in one way or another, we can make a difference.
  2. To start off, cities should start on projects to help conserve energy. There should be more public transit available for the community to take. You should install a programmable thermostat and properly insulate your homes. By doing so, you can make the greatest savings on your electricity bills and reduce carbon dioxide from our air. During the colder seasons, avoid turning up the heat and instead, wear warmer clothing. During the colder seasons, instead of turning on the air conditioner, go out for a swim or for some ice-cream.
  3. Another way to help reduce global warming is for the city to start off lots of fun programs for the kids. This way they can get exercise and spend time with their friends instead of sitting at home on the computer, watching television and playing video games. While the kids are outside getting some fresh air, the electronics at home will be turned off which will reduce the amount of electricity.
  4. The city should hold meetings regularly regarding the problems we are facing due to global warming. These issues should be addressed and should be taken into consideration so everyone can work together to reduce the pollution causing the green house gases.


  • What is the role of government in supporting efforts to address climate change?

  1. The government is helping take action against climate change in many different ways. During the Olympics, the Canada line represented 19 kilometer rail transit service which linked downtown Vancouver with central Richmond and the Vancouver International Airport. This reduced the number of cars on the roads and allowed fast, safe and productive ways to get around. Most of the stuff made for the Olympics was used from recycled stuff. The Canadian Government has started many projects around the country like planting trees. Trees remove carbon dioxide from the air as they grow and release oxygen. Tree planting can be used as a technique to remove CO2 from the atmosphere which will reduce global warming.

Overall climate change has become an important issue all around the world and we should consider fixing this problem as soon as possible to have a healthier and cleaner environment for the generations to come. If everyone contributes in one way or another we will see changes very soon. The carbon dioxide will decrease by a huge amount and the earth will look better in every way. The smallest changes can help even if you choose you recycle the littlest thing. Changing your lifestyle will be for the best and the results will also improve. Some simple changes to add to your lifestyle would be to bring reusable grocery bags when shopping. This way the bags can be used for longer periods of time. Another thing to do would be to buy products with minimal use of packaging. Never forget to use your blue box to recycle anything and everything you can. Changes like these will set our planet to pollution free in no time!


By: Larry West.
"Top 10 Things You Can do to Reduce Global Warming"
Change a Light Bulb, Drive Less and Drive Smart
April 25th, 2010

"Make Your City Smarter"
How to get rid of carbon dioxide
April 25th, 2010

"Plant a Tree"
How trees can reduce carbon dioxide
April 25th, 2010

"Carbon Dioxide"
The effects of carbon dioxide
April 26th, 2010

By: Essex-Windsor Solid Waste Authority
"Reduce, Reuse, Recycle"
April 26th, 2010