Ongoing Gulf oil spill wreaking havoc for marine ecology

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London, June 9 (ANI): The continuing oil spill disaster in Gulf of Mexico is becoming a reason for serious worries as researchers are beginning to collect data on how it is changing marine life in the Gulf.

Samantha Joye of the University of Georgia in Athens said that methane concentrations in a giant underwater plume emanating from the wellhead are as much as 10,000 times higher than background levels - consequences of which are unknown.

"It's an infusion of oil and gas that has never been seen before, certainly not in human history," New Scientist quoted her as saying.

Joye's team found lowered oxygen levels throughout the water column near the plume as a result of increased activity from bacteria that are digesting the oil. A big mystery, however, is the effect chemical dispersants being injected into the leaking oil to break it up, will have on phytoplankton and other organisms at the bottom of the food chain.

Every year, fertilisers pouring off the US coast boost algal growth, which sucks oxygen out of the water and stifles other life forms, creating one of the world's largest known dead zones.

Joye said she did not think the extra microbial activity would be significant enough to create additional dead zones in the gulf, because microbes need nutrients that do not exist in high enough concentrations at depth. But she cautions that the environmental implications are unknown.

"The system as a whole has been substantially perturbed by this event," says Joye. "When you interfere with the natural system, it's likely that problems will cascade up the food web." (ANI)

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