Coral and live bottom (hard bottom inhabited by dense cover of corals, algae, sponges and other attached species) are not adapted to living with oil and gas, unlike cold seep communities. As summarized in a NOAA fact sheet (PDF), “impacts of oil spills to coral reefs are difficult to predict because each spill presents a unique set of physical, chemical, and biological conditions.” The most likely way deep reefs will be exposed is to weathered oils that sink and travel in mid-water plumes and mix with sediments. Dispersants act to break up light oils into small particles, which may actually increase exposure on deeper reefs. The NOAA Fact sheet includes related research links.
EXPEDITION OBJECTIVE– ASSESSMENT OF OIL IMPACTS OF DEEP CORAL AND MESOPHOTIC REEFS
[John Reed, (leader), M. Dennis Hanisak, Ph.D.; Joshua Voss, Ph.D., Shirley Pomponi, Ph.D., Amy Wright, Ph.D., Tammy Frank, Ph.D.]
Coral reef and benthic hard-bottom ecosystems support vast amounts of the ocean’s biodiversity and exhibit exceptional variation in relative forms, functions, origins, and locations. Given the magnitude, location, and depth of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, a major concern for offshore impacts is the impact on coral reefs, particularly the deep coral
EXPEDITION OBJECTIVE: STRESS RESPONSES OF CORALS AND OTHER MARINE INVERTEBRATES EXPOSED TO OIL AND CHEMICAL DISPERSANTS
(P.I. Sara Edge, Ph.D., Joshua Voss, Ph.D.)