Thursday, May 6, 2010

Gulf Oil Spill a "Dead Zone in the Making"?

After heavy rains, experts from a handful of conservation groups traveled by boat Monday to see if oil from the ongoing Gulf of Mexico spill had yet reached the birds at this remote spot.

Even if oil never washes up in the refuge, the region's birds may be silenced if the crude lingers deep in the Gulf of Mexico, experts say.
That's because 5,000 barrels of oil (210,000 gallons, or 794,937 liters) a day are thought to be bleeding from a damaged wellhead at the nearby site of the Deepwater Horizon rig disaster. All that oil is poisoning the less photogenic creatures—plankton, sand crabs, and fish larvae, among others—at the base of the region's food web.

If the oil spill can't be contained, the Gulf of Mexico could have another "dead zone in the making,"

Standing in the warm, calf-deep water of the bird refuge, the National Wildlife Federation's Schweiger pointed out that the marshes of the Gulf Coast replenish the entire ecosystem, for instance by protecting shorelines from eroding.