Can the Mangroves Survive This Oil Spill?

The first time I heard of the oil drilling platform disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, I immediately thought about Sanibel Island – and the Florida and gulf coastline – that is home to a huge and diverse variety of land and marine animals, including the mollusks.

The oil spill will affect every living thing in those waters in a very negative way.  And mollusks, the animals in the shells, live at all depths of the ocean, but an important area for not only mollusks, but fish, birds, reptiles and other wildlife is the mangrove areas.

The mangroves, where many animals thrive, are plants living near or in the water line along the coast or inlets in salt water. Typically the mangrove trees have lots of roots above and below water and aid in protecting the coast from erosion. They are also home to many types of mollusks. The water is saline, or brackish, but shallow and serves as a place of protection among the root systems.  Oil on mangrove roots kills the trees by not allowing oxygen in.

In fact, “Florida’s fisheries would suffer a dramatic decline without access to healthy mangrove habitats.” is an excerpt taken from “Ichthyology” in the section about the importance of mangroves and how they serve as breeding grounds for all kinds of fish and mollusks as well as shrimp and oysters.  This page tells of the detrimental impact of disasters, including oil spills and it leaves me wondering how on earth an oil spill this enormous can ever be cleaned up before catastrophic damage is done.

Mollusks, either eat plants and algae or other animals.  If their food sources are covered in oil, or the creatures they eat have been affected by the oil, it will be passed on to the creature who eats it.  If the mangroves die, where will marine life go who depend on mangrove areas for protection and how will a lack of protection from erosion affect our coastline and the fishing industry?

I suppose that only long term studies can tell us exactly how great an impact this latest disaster has been, but I am not looking forward to the results when what we can see already is so disturbing.

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