NOAA's Response and Restoration Blog

An inside look at the science of cleaning up and fixing the mess of marine pollution

Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Impacts on Gulf of Mexico Shorelines and Nearshore Areas

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OIled beach with marsh grass.

Heavily oiled marsh shoreline in Barataria Bay, Louisiana. Image credit: NOAA.

The 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill resulted in significant environmental harm over a large area of the Gulf of Mexico and adjacent shorelines.

A special issue of Marine Ecology Progress Series(link is external)  published August 3, 2017, features 9 scientific articles summarizing the impacts of the oil spill on northern Gulf of Mexico shorelines and nearshore areas.  The scientific studies, conducted by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration authors and partners, document four key findings based on five years of data collection and study: (1) organismal level effects were documented across the full range of trophic levels in areas that experienced heavy oiling; (2) degradation or loss of habitat-forming species represents a pathway to long-term direct and indirect effects; (3) the loss and degradation of these habitats result in a wide range of ecosystem service losses; and (4) response actions designed to mitigate the effects of oil often result in ecological injury. Findings from these research studies, in addition to other studies on other parts of the ecosystem, formed the basis of the natural resources damage assessment settlement with BP for up to $8.8 billion.  All of the data associated with the settlement is available publicly in the Data Integration Visualization Exploration and Reporting database, but the Marine Environmental Progress Series special issue is the first time this information on nearshore impacts of the spill has been compiled together in peer-reviewed scientific publications.

For further information, contact Mary.Baker@noaa.gov(link sends e-mail).

Also see Effects of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill on Coastal Salt Marsh Habitat.

Author: Office of Response and Restoration

The National Ocean Service's Office of Response and Restoration (OR&R) provides scientific solutions for marine pollution. A part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), OR&R is a center of expertise in preparing for, evaluating, and responding to threats to coastal environments. These threats could be oil and chemical spills, releases from hazardous waste sites, or marine debris.

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