Oil spills are devastating to the marine life. We all know that. However, very few people actually stop to consider the reasons as to why oil harms animals and plants in marine environments. This is what we are going to discuss on this page.
There are two ‘reasons’ as to why oil has an impact on animal and plant life. It is either:
- The oil itself. We will cover how the oil actually impacts the animals in a short while.
- The cleanup operation. This is actually one of the more dangerous aspects.
Oil is poisonous to animals. It is full of chemicals which can prove fatal. The oil enters the body of the animal through ingestion or inhalation. The chemicals will cause havoc on the system. Many animals will die from respiratory conditions due to the oil. This means they will slowly suffocate. Some animals, for example fish, may only need to get the oil on their skin to be adversely impacted. This is because the oil will make regulation of body temperature difficult. This can cause death.
The animals which seem to be most prone to oil spills are those that live closer to the surface of the water. This is because the oil will float. Sea otters and birds tend to bear the brunt of it all, particularly as the oil drifts closer to the shore. If the oil manages to reach the beach, then any animals which call the beach their home will also be adversely impacted. This includes snails, crabs and clams.
The oil, of course, doesn’t just impact animals. It also impacts the entirety of the environment. Sections of the ocean are now uninhabitable due to oil spills. Oil spills can wipe out plant and animal life in the area. This removes a food source for many creatures. It is impossible to remove every piece of the oil too, which means that life in that area is going to be impacted for a very long time to come. Remember, plants can be poisoned in very much the same way as animals. Thick oil spills are known to ‘smoother’ plants (as well as animals) which ends up killing them off rather rapidly!
To cap it all off, the cleanup operation will require a lot of equipment to correct. The equipment used will be dependent on the size of the spill. A couple of different methods aim to move the slick away from coastal areas. This means the slick is going to be moved further out into the ocean. This will impact even more areas and put even more animals at risk. In some cases, the oil will even be burned off ‘in situ’. This, of course puts the animals and plant life in the immediate area at risk!
Basically, oil spills are not good for animals or the environment at all! New methods are being devised to ensure that oil spills become less likely to happen but, sadly, they can’t be completely eradicated. This means that, sadly, animals are always going to be at risk.