The resent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is likely to turn out very badly for the local wildlife, including multiple bird species, blue-fin tuna, and the ever awesome Manatees (Sea Cows).
What makes this region ecologically special is the unusual patterns
of land and sea conjured into existence by the lazy and variegated exit
of the mighty Mississippi into the Gulf.
Here lie about 25% of US wetlands – areas rich with life, where human occupancy is low, and birds and other animals can thrive.
“For birds, the timing could not be worse; they are
breeding, nesting and especially vulnerable in many of the places where
the oil could come ashore,” warns Melanie Driscoll, a Louisiana-based
bird conservation director with the National Audubon Society, the
leading US bird conservation group.
“We have to hope for the best, but prepare for the worst, including a true catastrophe for birds.”
“If you’ve got seagrass beds badly contaminated, clearly the
manatees could be seriously affected,” says Carl-Gustaf Lundin, head of
the Marine Programme at the International Union for the Conservation of
Here again is a species that is already under
severe stress. Fewer than 2,500 adults remain, and the IUCN Red List
says the Florida subspecies is expected to decline by at least 20% over
the next 40 years, with various factors implicated, including climate
change and impacts from boats.
UPDATE: NASA has some interesting Satellite photos tracking the spill here.