Oil spill’s impact on the ecology

September 1, 2006


By Anabelle E. Plantilla

A LOT has already been reported and said about the recent oil spill which has now adversely affected marine sanctuaries and mangrove reserves in three out of five municipalities in Guimaras Island and reached the shores of Iloilo and Negros Occidental. It is heartbreaking that the oil spill occurred in the Visayas Sea which is considered a rich fishing ground that supplies most of the fisheries demand for the entire country. (NDCC, August 2006)

Oil spills inhibit the growth of phytoplankton which are the primary source of food for all marine life (Castro and Huber, 2000). Oil clogs the gills of fishes and the filtering structure of benthic organisms such as oysters and clams. Feeding and reproduction are also hindered and these organisms become susceptible to diseases. Its effects on corals are swollen tissues, excessive production of mucus and tissue degeneration. For marine birds and mammals, such as whales and dolphins, their insulation and buoyancy are affected since their feathers and fur become matted and soaked with oil (Sumich, 2000).

Among coastal ecosystems, the mangrove forest and salt marshes are the most sensitive since oil cannot be dispersed by wave action and is absorbed by the fine sediment characteristics of these areas. It can remain in these areas for more than a decade. Lightly oiled mangroves are likely to recover after a year while those that were heavily oiled will delay its recovery. There are also observed decrease of flower and seed production and defoliation resulting in seeding mortality and a lower growth rate.

Haribon sent its two biologists to Guimaras to rapidly assess the damage and talk to the affected communities regarding their immediate needs. Definitely Haribon will be providing assistance to the area particularly for the long-term rehabilitation of the area. Finally, the government has evacuated the affected families who have already been exposed to the toxic elements of the crude oil. According to reports gathered in the field, people have already contracted skin diseases.

(Click Nature, Sept. 2, 2006.)


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