energy to ow rom organism to organism. At the base o ocean ood webs are plankton,tiny organisms that capture energy rom sunlight and store it in chemicals. Largerorganisms, like krill, shrimp, fsh, and whales, consume plankton. In addition, fsh preyon other fsh. Where energy-bearing ood is available, some organisms in an ecosystemwill adapt to consume it so that the ecosystem can support as much lie as possible.
In April 2010, an explosion damaged the Deepwater Horizon. The rig later sank to theocean oor. This event let broken pipes spilling thousands o barrels o oil into theocean each day. The ow o oil was not stopped until our months later.
The enormous oil spill had a long list o possible eects on the Gul o Mexico ecosystem.First o all, the spill could damage the larger organisms like fsh, turtles, and dolphins.Breathing or swallowing the oil allows the oil into their bodies, which can cause organdamage and endanger the lives o the animals. The oil in their environment can alsodisrupt the animals’ eeding habits and reproduction patterns.
Possible damage was not limited to the larger organisms. Oil is poisonous, and it caneliminate large communities o plankton, cutting o the entry point o energy into theocean ecosystem and starving the other organisms in the ood web.
The explosion at the Deepwater Horizon could have destroyed the ecosystem in the Gul o Mexico. Although the long-term eects o this disaster will not be understood oryears, many eorts are underway to avoid the worst-case outcome.
Human eorts to clean up the spilled oil helped, but amazingly, microscopic organismscalled bacteria were the most eective cleaners. Because oil has naturally leaked into theGul o Mexico or a long time, bacteria exist within the ecosystem. These bacteria areable to consume this oil as their source o energy.
Scientists discovered huge new populations o bacteria rapidly consuming spilled oil andmethane (a gas mixed with the oil). Large bodies o oil would disappear within a ewdays. Large amounts o methane in Gul water vanished. One o the most eectivemeasures taken by humans to help clean up the oil turned out to be the spreading o dispersants, chemicals that break up large globs o spilled oil into smaller globs.Although it was not intentional, these dispersants helped to make the oil more accessibleto oil-consuming bacteria, speeding their natural cleanup o the spill. Today, parts o theocean ecosystem appear to be healthy, but the eects o this disaster on the Gul o Mexico and uture generations in this ecosystem will not be known or many years.
Many questions remain unanswered. How much o the spilled oil was cleaned byhumans? How much was eaten by bacteria? How much is still in the ocean? How has thisaected the Gul ecosystem? What eects will this disaster have on uture generations o organisms in the Gul o Mexico? Scientists continue to research the eects o theDeepwater Horizon disaster to fnd the answers to these questions.