Whatever oil we use today comes from deep down the crust of the Earth. Most of it is derived from the middle of oceans. Due to broken machinery, damaged tankers and pipelines, machinery malfunction, or offshore oil rigs, millions of tons of oil spill and escape into the environment causing long-term side-effects.
Oil spills affect the fauna and flora alike. Moreover, they can also affect humans. Many animals and plants get killed, pH levels and salinity are affected, and water and air get polluted to a great extent. The repercussions of the catastrophe can last for decades.
Let us know more about how oil spill impacts the environment.
- It affects the aquatic animals
The world under the water is habituated by marine mammals like dolphins, whales, sea otters, and seals, fish, shellfish, and other marine animals. Every creature bears the brunt of oil spills in oceans.
From seeping into the blowholes of dolphins and whales and disrupting their breathing and communication to smearing the fur of seals and otters, making them susceptible to hypothermia, oil spill takes a toll on marine animals. It affects fish eggs and larvae, shrimp, and oysters.
Apart from casting the terrible immediate effects, oil also contaminates the food supply. When the animals consume the food poisoned by oil, either they die or suffer from other issues.
- It hampers the terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems
An oil spill can be dangerous for both, terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. When tons and tons of oil spill in the sea, it spreads over the water and reaches the land. Oil coats the beaches and coastal marshes, damaging everything. It also affects the wildlife habitat.
The oil floating on the surface of the sea sinks into the aquatic ecosystem and damages the underwater ecosystem. All in all, it disrupts the global food chain.
- It wreaks havoc on birds
While the shorebirds manage to escape the danger by relocating, sea birds fall prey to the perils of oil spills. Oil spill vandalizes the nesting grounds affecting the entire species.
History has it that many birds had suffered from accidental oil spills, especially when the accident took place during their mating or nesting season. Moreover, these accidents also impact the migratory pattern of the birds.
Birds exposed to oil spills suffer severe problems when the oil coats their feathers making it impossible for them to fly. It also hampers their natural insulation and waterproofing, making them susceptible to problems like overheating and hypothermia.
The birds that swallow oil bear severe consequences as oil damages their internal organs and even cause death.
- It severely affects wildlife
The environmental effects of the oil spill are not limited to oceans and surrounding lands, but wildlife habitats and nesting too.
Species like turtles live in the sea but make their nest ashore to lay their eggs. When the oil reaches the beach, it damages the eggs and harms the development too. The newly hatched turtles, when swimming across the ocean get covered in oil.
Similarly, the incident of oil spills impacts several other species of wildlife living in the affected areas.
The bottom line
Oil spills can be very dangerous. They affect every organ of the ecosystem. Although the effect the vary based on several factors such as type of oil, the weight of oil, the amount spilled, the location of the oil spill, wildlife of the area, seasonal migration, breeding cycles, weather conditions, and many more, it all boils down to the fact that everything linked to the system bears the consequences for years.
Fortunately, industries implement several solutions for oil spills that help in minimizing the threat.