The planet we live on, Earth, contains huge amounts of gas and oil spill beneath its surface. Sometimes, these reserves form cracks and a portion of the gas or oil escape. It is a natural phenomenon that rarely results in major damage. However, it is the case that the same issue occurs by human intervention, which can result in an enormous amount of harm in marine ecosystems.
The serious effects of oil spills on the Environment along with the Wildlife
1. Environmental Effects
Based on the severity of the extent of the leak and its location, different ecosystem elements could be affected, and the consequences can vary between minimal and grave ones.
Oil spills may cause significant harm to the temporary fish and animal destruction of their habitat. Heavy oils can alter aspects of the organism, such as food intake, respiration, and thermoregulation.
However, the whole ecosystem could be affected for a short period due to the chemical elements and components of the oil spilled that pose a risk to the surrounding Environment.
Typically, oil spills that occur in water environments (e.g., oceans, seas, or leaks from oil drilling platforms that end up in the water) are quickly degraded compared with oil spills that occur either on land or subsurface environments.
However, when an oil spill in the water is large enough (such as the instance of the Exxon Valdez 1989 spill or the April 2010 BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico from offshore drilling).
Then the impacts on wildlife, marine life, human beings, and ecosystems, including marshes and wetlands along with shorelines and coastal gulfs could be severe.
2. The effects on wildlife
Most important is the impact on the Environment. Animal life living in water or close to the shoreline is the most affected by this oil spill. In the majority of cases, the oil suffocates those animals until they die. Other animals that survive face various other issues.
The oil is absorbed through the furs and the plumage of animals. Oil can destroy the insulation capability of fur-bearing mammals like sea otters and the water repellency of birds’ feathers, making them vulnerable to harsh elements.
In the absence of the ability to repel water and shield from the frigid water, both mammals and birds will suffer from hypothermia. Both mammals and birds struggle to remain afloat in water or regulate their body temperature.
Many birds and baby animals die of starvation because parents cannot smell their bodies ‘ scents. Birds who strut around to eliminate the oil may swallow the oil and eventually suffer from the poisonous consequences.
When the oil is dispersed into the water column, the fish, shellfish, and corals may contact the oil. Corals and shellfish could be exposed to the zone of intertidal.
If exposed to oil, mature fish can experience decreased growth, larger livers, heart and respiration rate alteration, fin erosion, and impairment in reproduction. The eggs and larvae of fish can be particularly sensitive to the
effects of lethal or sub-lethal. Even if lethal impacts were not observed, the oil might cause fish and shellfish unfit for human consumption.
In many instances, animals go blind as a result of frequent exposure to oil. Sea otters, dolphins, fish, many species of birds, and marine mammals suffer from these effects.
The process of removing these effects and cleaning the oil could take between a few weeks and many years, based on the extent of the damage.
3. Impact on Humans
The impacts of oil spills on wildlife could negatively impact humans. The destruction of ecosystems can affect the communities that depend on these ecosystems for survival as food and crop sources becoming toxic or completely disappearing due to the food chain being weakened.
The water supply in the surrounding areas is in danger of being contaminated due to oil spills. The 2013 oil leaks disrupted the water supply for 300,000 people living in Miri, Malaysia, and 80,000 people living in Coca, Ecuador.
Local ship workers and fishermen may lose their sources for income due to health risks associated with exposure to oil, including respiratory issues, a decrease in immunity, and an increase in the risk of cancer. Communities could be deprived of vital resources and the revenue required to sustain them.
Oil spills can impact the air quality of the surrounding areas and release toxic chemicals into the air. After the disaster of 2010 Deepwater Horizon catastrophe, the study of 2015 discovered concentrations of benzene as well as fine particulate matter throughout the southeast of Louisiana in the region that was “high enough to exceed public health criteria, with measurable exposure disparities in the coastal areas closer to the spill and clean-up activities.”
A study conducted in 2019 in Nigeria, which is Africa’s largest country and biggest oil producer, revealed the impact of nearby oil spills on neonatal deaths by 38.
Three percent for every 1000 live births. Additional evidence suggests that the impacts persist for a long time after the oil spill has occurred. The study described the effects on the population as “an alarming ongoing human tragedy.”
Cleaning up oil spills can be in danger of worsening the problem caused by controlled burning of oil slicks, which could create air pollution or the dispersants used in dispersing oil slicks, which could increase the risk of contamination surrounding waters and wildlife.
In colder regions, oil-consuming microbes’ slowdown, which makes these regions susceptible to oil spills.
4. Impact on Economy
The other major impact of the oil leak can be evident in economics. If precious natural petroleum or refinery is lost, it impacts the quantity of gas and petroleum available to use. It means that more barrels need to come from different countries.
Then comes the work of cleaning up the oil spill, which will require lots of money. While the company responsible for oil spills and the effects they cause must clean up the mess, there is plenty of assistance from the government at this moment.
The people who come aboard to clean up spills are facing serious health issues later in life too. Their medical care has to be covered and is the obligation to the federal government.
The process of putting all the strategies of treatment in order and keeping them in check can take resources away from essential tasks and affects an economy in subtle but effective ways.
5. Effect on Tourism Industry
The tourism industry in the local area is suffering a major setback since the majority of tourists stay far from such locations. Dead animals, watery oils and massive torballs are a common sight.
Because of this, many activities like sailing and swimming, rafting, fishing, and parachute gliding can’t be carried out. Industries that depend on seawater for their day-to-day operations cease their activities until it is cleaned.