Oceanography The Official Magazine of
The Oceanography Society
Volume 29 Issue 03

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Volume 29, No. 3
Pages 204 - 213


Synthesis and Crosscutting Topics of the GoMRI Special Issue

By John W. Farrington , Kathryn A. Burns , and Margaret S. Leinen 
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Article Abstract

In recent years, there have been significant advances in fluid dynamics/physical oceanography, microbiology, weathering, remote sensing, and analytical chemistry as they pertain to the fate and effects of oil spills. Effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on water column organisms and ecosystems have been difficult to ascertain. Laboratory experiments have expanded understanding of oil effects on phytoplankton and zooplankton. “Marine oil snow” has been identified as a significant factor in the fate of oil chemicals and their deposition with sediments. Oil chemicals and their effects on 24 km2 of mud-benthic communities surrounding the well site, and in a few other areas, have lasted several years. Some deep-sea corals have also been affected for several years, and oil chemicals and their effects in heavily oiled marsh areas are projected to last a decade or longer. Lightly oiled marsh areas have recovered or are recovering. Research about use of dispersants highlights the need to update the 2005 National Research Council study of dispersant use on oil spills. Ongoing research should provide some closure for the issues of long-term effects on fisheries and marine mammals, and impacts on human health. Practical uses of this new knowledge are discussed briefly.


Farrington, J.W., K.A. Burns, and M.S. Leinen. 2016. Synthesis and crosscutting topics of the GoMRI special issue. Oceanography 29(3):204–213, https://doi.org/10.5670/oceanog.2016.84.

Supplementary Materials

Supplementary Figure S1. Schematic of the fate of crude oil spilled in the marine environment. Redrawn based on National Research Council. 1985. Oil in the Sea: Inputs, Fates and Effects. National Academies Press, Washington, DC, 601 pp., and R. Burwood and G.C. Speers. 1974. Photo-oxidation as a factor in the environmental dispersal of crude oil. Estuarine and Coastal Marine Science 2:117–135, https://doi.org/10.1016/0302-3524(74)90034-6. Original with color added. 
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Supplementary Table S1. Examples of Effects of Spilled Oil on Marine Organisms
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Supplementary Table S2. Knowledge of Effects of Petroleum in the Marine Environment Circa 1983 Paraphrasing and Quoting Selected Excerpts from NRC (1985) Oil in the Sea Report
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