Oil endagers oil-seep communities

Ironically, although the BP oil spill threatens ecological communities in and around the Gulf of Mexico, some of those communities are themselves based on natural oil and gas seeps.  As today’s New York Times reports, there may be thousands of these ecosystems in the deep sea (up to 1.5 miles down), all based on chemosynthetic bacteria feeding on methane and hydrogen sulfide associated with gas seeps.  In this sense they resemble hydrothermal vent communities, except that the temperature of the Gulf communities is lower and the bacteria feed on petrochemical products rather than dissolved minerals.

The Times article has a good slide show with photographs of some of the Gulf communities, which include molluscs, corals, and tubeworms:

Black coral in a cold-water seep:

7 thoughts on “Oil endagers oil-seep communities

    1. You bet. Count on deep sea creatures to completely blow your mind with beauty. I found these breathtaking.

  1. It would be nice if the folks crowing about how Deepwater Horizon is no big deal because “Oil is biodegradable!” and “Most oil ‘spills’ come from natural seepage!” would understand this concept. A large number of diffuse seeps emitting oil at a low rate can support a specialized ecosystem; a sudden concentrated influx of oil can decimate the very same ecosystem.

    It would be like insisting that drowning was a myth because, after all, humans need water to survive!

    1. It would be nice if the folks crowing about how Deepwater Horizon is no big deal because “Oil is biodegradable!” and “Most oil ‘spills’ come from natural seepage!” would understand this concept.
      [snip]
      It would be like insisting that drowning was a myth because, after all, humans need water to survive!

      Unsurprisingly, those folk are mostly the same folks who insist global warming is a myth, because, after all, plants need CO2 to survive!

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