Study assessed impacts of Deepwater Horizon oil spill on sea turtles

December 23, 2015

MIAMI--Researchers investigating the impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on sea turtles found that over 320,000 juvenile sea turtles from populations throughout the Atlantic Ocean were likely present in the northern Gulf of Mexico during the 87-day oil spill. The study, led by researchers at the University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, has important implications for international management and restoration efforts following oil spills.

"There is a perception that the spills impacts were largely contained to the northern Gulf of Mexico, because that is where the oil remained," said study's lead author Nathan Putman, a researcher at the Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Studies located at the UM Rosenstiel School. "However, this overlooks the movement of migratory and dispersive marine animals into the area from distant locations."

Researchers used a computer model to backtrack virtual particles from the Gulf of Mexico spill site to determine the probability of young sea turtles arriving to this area from across the Atlantic. The abundance of turtles in the vicinity of the oil spill was derived by forward-tracking particles from 35 major nesting beaches using knowledge of their population sizes, oceanic-stage durations, and survival rates.

The simulations showed that upwards of 320,000 green (Chelonia mydas), loggerhead (Caretta caretta) and Kemp's ridley (Lepidochelys kempii) turtles were likely present within the spill site. More than 95 percent of sea turtles present at the spill site are thought to have originated from outside of the U.S., including from populations throughout the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean, northern South America, and western Africa.

"Our findings give new geopolitical context to the scope of the spill, placing its impacts far beyond the present focus on the northern Gulf of Mexico," said Putman.

The leatherback, hawksbill, Kemp's ridley, and loggerhead sea turtles are all listed as endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.

The model used in the study could also help researchers estimate populations of protected species present in others area of potential impacts, such as from fisheries, energy extraction operations, and military exercises.
-end-
The study, titled "Deepwater Horizon oil spill impacts to sea turtles could span the Atlantic," was published in the Dec 23 online editions of the journal Biology Letters. The study's authors include: Putman; F. Alberto Abreu-Grobois and Iñaky Iturbe-Darkistade of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México; Paul Richards of the National Marine Fisheries Service; Philippe Verley of the Centre de Recherche Halieutique Méditerranéenne et Tropicale in France; and independent researcher Emily Putman. The study was funded by the NOAA Protected Species Toolbox and a National Research Council Research Associateship Award

About the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School

The University of Miami is one of the largest private research institutions in the southeastern United States. The University's mission is to provide quality education, attract and retain outstanding students, support the faculty and their research, and build an endowment for University initiatives. Founded in the 1940's, the Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science has grown into one of the world's premier marine and atmospheric research institutions. Offering dynamic interdisciplinary academics, the Rosenstiel School is dedicated to helping communities to better understand the planet, participating in the establishment of environmental policies, and aiding in the improvement of society and quality of life. For more information, visit: http://www.rsmas.miami.edu.

University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science

Related Oil Spill Articles from Brightsurf:

Oil spill clean- up gets doggone hairy
A study investigating sustainable-origin sorbent materials to clean up oil spill disasters has made a surprising discovery.

Political 'oil spill': Polarization is growing stronger and getting stickier
Experts have documented that political polarization is intensifying in the United States.

Oil spill: where and when will it reach the beach? Answers to prevent environmental impacts
When an accident involving oil spills occurs, forecasting the behaviour of the oil slick and understanding in advance where and when it will reach the coastline is crucial to organize an efficient emergency response that is able to limit environmental and economic repercussions.

Chemical herders could impact oil spill cleanup
Oil spills in the ocean can cause devastation to wildlife, so effective cleanup is a top priority.

Study shows continuing impacts of Deepwater Horizon oil spill
Nine years ago tomorrow -- April 20, 2010 -- crude oil began leaking from the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig into the Gulf of Mexico in what turned out to be the largest marine oil spill in history.

New report examines the safety of using dispersants in oil spill clean ups
A multi-disciplinary team of scientists has issued a series of findings and recommendations on the safety of using dispersal agents in oil spill clean-up efforts in a report published this month by the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine.

What plants can teach us about oil spill clean-up, microfluidics
For years, scientists have been inspired by nature to innovate solutions to tricky problems, even oil spills -- manmade disasters with devastating environmental and economic consequences.

Top oil spill expert available to discuss new oil spill dispersant research
Internationally recognized oil spill expert, Nancy Kinner, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of New Hampshire is available to discuss new post-Deepwater Horizon (DWH) dispersant research and its use in future oil spill responses.

Gulf spill oil dispersants associated with health symptoms in cleanup workers
Workers who were likely exposed to dispersants while cleaning up the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill experienced a range of health symptoms including cough and wheeze, and skin and eye irritation, according to scientists at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

New view of dispersants used after Deepwater Horizon oil spill
New research has uncovered an added dimension to the decision to inject large amounts of chemical dispersants above the crippled seafloor oil well during the Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010.

Read More: Oil Spill News and Oil Spill Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.