The Deepwater Horizon rig explosion on April 20, 2010 has affected several habitats on the Gulf of Mexico. Yet, the impact of the oil spill cannot be calculated in its entirety, and time will reveal how the Gulf reacts to the accident. For the Gulf to recuperate, the coastal and marine ecosystems have to find balance once again, and the only way to do this is for the elements of each ecosystem to help with the repairs.
Coastal ecosystems, like mangrove forests, coral reefs, oyster beds and others environments, provide shelter to different types of organism and animals, like birds, and crabs. The seagrass meadows located on shallow waters provide food for manatees and turtles. Sargassum seas are floating seaweeds that provide nurseries and habitats for hundreds of species. All of these components possess inherent capabilities to cope with pollutants and waste, and turn them into useful resources, like food and refuge.
Marine ecosystems comprise the diverse environments that exist on the three main water layers or zones. The sunlit epipelagic zone is the upmost level, where plankton produces oxygen during photosynthesis, and nourishes many fish, crustaceans and mammals. On the mesopelagic zone that begins at 50ft. below sea level, coral reef provides shelter to different species of fish. These fish are essential to the rest of the food chain that lives down to about 650 ft. below sea level. Cold seep subsists from chemicals that ooze from them seafloor on the next layer, the bathypelagic zone. Caridean shrimp, mussels and octopus live off the cold seep, and blend with other animals capable of surviving in extreme cold and pressure, with virtually no light.
Toxins from the oil spill have spread throughout the three layers, altering micro fauna essential to the well-being of the Gulf. Additionally, heavier oil compounds can mix with other floating sediment and form tar-balls that can float to shore, or sink to the bottom of the ocean. Although there have been several attempts to clean the oil and thereby reduce the disturbances on the Gulf, many people wonder if these themselves pose a threat to marine life.
Perhaps the best policy in the Gulf would be to develop safety regulations for all companies to abide, as well as create security jobs to enforce regulations. Coast security guards could monitor the different rigs and wells not only physically but also remotely with the use of technology. Professionals who are hired for these jobs in security could work in conjunction with the coast guard, and develop a safety network with a broader range of resources and experience. In a sense, we could complement the ecosystems of the Gulf, creating better living conditions not only for humans but also for all sea life.