--> Abstract: The Importance of Time and Space: Understanding the Ecological Impacts of the Macondo Spill, by Jeffrey R. Wozniak; #90124 (2011)

Datapages, Inc.Print this page

Making the Next Giant Leap in Geosciences
April 10-13, 2011, Houston, Texas, USA

The Importance of Time and Space: Understanding the Ecological Impacts of the Macondo Spill

Jeffrey R. Wozniak1

(1) Texas Research Institute for Environmental Studies, Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, TX.

The negative effects on natural ecosystems from low frequency, high impact oil spill events have been well documented over the past 50 years. Spill events of this magnitude have the capacity to impact virtually every ecoregion on our planet (from the arctic, to temperate marine systems, and the tropics), as the reach of oil exploration and production spans the entire globe. However, with the passing of each new spill event, it becomes increasingly evident that there is a unique ecological response to each spill, primarily driven by a “local” suite of biotic and abiotic variables present at the spill site. These variables, functioning individually or in concert, can have significant and novel effects on ecosystems from the species-level up through the landscape level. Determining how these variables align to drive ecosystem response to oiling can be critical in assessing the degree of ecological impact a spill may impart on an ecosystem. The combination of these factors presents complex challenges for ecologists, as the high level of uncertainty surrounding ecological impacts can be nearly impossible to predict and difficult to study. Further complicating the situation is the fact that the severity of ecological impacts to oiling can vary across spatial and temporal scales. To most efficiently and effectively assess the ecological response to major oil spills it is critical to employ an adaptive experimental design that be modified to address these changes across multiple spatial and temporal scales. This presentation will examine the importance of including time and space in assessing the ecological impacts of the Macondo oil spill and how expanding our understanding of ecosystem responses can be vital in determining the interventions we can initiate to minimize and mitigate spill effects.