Until recently, there had not been a major oil spill affecting the United States in many years. Now, however, the effects of oil spills have been brought into the forefront due to the recent oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico. Indeed, the effects of oil leaks can have devastating consequences for the environment and for marine life.
For instance, oil can kill animals by causing hypothermia. The oil mixes with water to form a substance that sticks to the feathers and fur of animals such as birds and seal pups. This keeps the animal warm and interferes with their ability to regulate body temperature. As a result, they can suffer from hypothermia and die. The oil can also make it difficult for birds and pinnipeds to escape from predators, since they are weighed down by the oil. They can also drown from the weight in some cases.
Oil can also cause animal death through poisoning. Animals who ingest oil can suffer from ulcers as well as damage to the kidneys, livers, eyes, and lungs. There can be a chain reaction of deaths when one animal eats another animal who has already been poisoned by the oil. This can also affect reproduction, leading to reduced rates of a particular species. Oil can disrupt the reproductive hormones and affects the eggs of fish, sea truths, herring, salmon, and other marine wildlife.
Moreover, oil spills also affect the ocean habitat both onshore and offshore. Oil can poison pelagic marine life like plankton before it reaches shore. In addition, oil can cover marine algae, marine invertebrates, and rocks. This makes cleanup of a large area extremely difficult. Even after an area has been cleaned, the effects of the oil spill can remain for decades. Oil can seep deep into the ground, creating negative effects for burrowing animals such as craps and for other marine life.
It is clear that the effects of oil spills are negative and long lasting.