May 31, 2010

Decades later, how has the ecology of coastal Saudi Arabia recovered from the largest oil spill in history?

As the Deepwater Horizon spill progresses, I've been tracking down the science that has been done as a result of other large spills, particularly the monitoring of ecosystem damage and recovery. It's a mixed bag, apples and oranges in some cases, largely dependent on the communities affected, the extent of the spill, the cleanup effort and the environmental/species composition of the affected area.

I went straight to the biggest first, the Gulf War oil spill, which started in January of 1991 and ended up leaking 11 million barrels of oil (one barrel = 42 gallons) into the Persian Gulf, which eventually washed up on to the shorelines of the area, invading the beaches, salt marshes and mangrove forests. In 2001 and then again in 2008, Dr. Hans-Jörg Barth of the University of Regensburg reported on the ecological effects of the spill, which are apparent to this day.


"But as long as our forests stand, as long as trees march down to the sea or climb the wind-swept ridges of the Alleghenies, its dark plumy crown, its grand, rugged trunks, the strong, sweet, pitchy odor of its groves, and the heavy chant of the wind in them will stand for something that is wild and untamable and disdains even to be useful to man."
-Donald Culross Peattie, regarding the defiant pitch pine.

May 30, 2010

There is such a thing as too much news on a Sunday morning

I have to say, I'm very impressed with the rhetorical acrobatics, the marvelous mid-air twists and turns of Bp's spin doctors. I particularly like the claim that they successfully injected mud into the well, but were not successful in stopping the flow of oil. Really, they're trying very hard folks... to make it sound like they're trying very hard.
As John pointed out this morning, this is important: This is not the only spill happening right now, and it's certainly not the only one in the past month.
I think I need a nice long walk to clear my head. I've been stockpiling info for the past couple of weeks, really trying to piece this mess together. I'd like to share some of it when I have the time.
Here's a good summary of what's happening right now with the spill, including this bit:
At least two more oil spill cleanup workers have been hospitalized after feeling ill on the job, according to local shrimpers who are assisting in the recovery effort along the Gulf Coast. The workers complained of nausea, headaches and dizziness after low-flying planes applied chemical dispersants within one mile of operating cleanup vessels.
I have a feeling we'll be hearing more health concerns during the continuing cleanup.

May 29, 2010

Turtle transplant

Found a box turtle in the parking lot of the community today and drove him out to the Chattahoochee River Natty Rec Area. Hoping he doesn't find his way back to the asphalt anytime soon.