USGS, NASA Study Finds Widespread Coastal Land Losses from Gulf Oil Spill

Posted In Erosion, Gulf Oil Catastrophe, News
Nov
18

oiled-marsh
Tar Mat in Marsh in Louisana’s Barataria Bay. Captions And Photo source: ©© NWF

BY USGS;

A new USGS-NASA study found widespread shoreline loss along heavily oiled areas of Louisiana’s coast after the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill and compared the erosion from the spill with coastal changes Hurricane Isaac caused in 2012.

A pattern of dramatic, widespread shoreline loss along Louisiana’s coast caused by the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill has been revealed by a new study by the U.S. Geological Survey and National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Researchers used NASA’s annual mapping to analyze shoreline loss across most of upper Barataria Bay, located on the western side of the Mississippi River Delta. The study looked at shoreline imagery taken a year before the oil spill and then at images taken during a 2.5 year span after the spill. Scientists also compared shoreline losses from storm-induced erosion with losses linked to shoreline oiling.

The team found that although storm-induced erosion occurred at isolated shoreline sections, the pre-spill shoreline from 2009 to 2010 was largely stable. But, in the first year after the spill, from 2010 to 2011, the erosion pattern changed dramatically, with widespread erosion occurring throughout the bay. Erosion rates were highest along shorelines documented with heavy to moderate oiling, and were lower along shorelines that experienced low oiling.

In the second post-spill year, from 2011 to 2012, the higher loss rates extended to areas that experienced less oiling. Some of the shorelines studied received treatment to reverse or stop environmental damage from the spill, but researchers found no measurable difference in their erosion compared to non-treated shorelines.

In August 2012, 26-months after the post-spill period, Hurricane Isaac directly impacted Barataria Bay and erosion rates captured within the four-month period after the hurricane were the highest measured by the team. Researchers found this erosion was largely contained to the same isolated shoreline sections where erosion had occurred in the dominantly stable period before the spill occurred. While Hurricane Isaac did cause more severe erosion to occur at a few locations, the land loss from the oiling affected a much larger geographic area.

“Our study uniquely shows the patterns of shoreline recession seen in Barataria Bay are directly relatable to distinctly different causes,” said Amina Rangoonwala, USGS geophysicist and lead author of the study. “There was broadly dispersed erosion due to oiling from the Deepwater Horizon spill and more severe, but localized, erosion from Hurricane Isaac.”

The wetland impacts of the spill documented by the team included both shoreline erosion and wetland fragmentation, a process where small islands are broken into even smaller islands. Land lost in fragmented areas is unlikely to be reestablished because there are no new sediments flowing in to replenish what’s lost to erosion. This creates a higher possibility that natural coastal defenses against flooding will be reduced.

The images used for the study, which were collected during annual surveys and following Hurricane Isaac, were obtained from NASA’s Uninhabited Aerial Vehicle Synthetic Aperture Radar, developed and managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The system operates from a C-20A research aircraft and its polarized radar produced detailed representations of the marsh, which USGS scientists then used to develop a process to analyze the shoreline recession and its causes.

“Through this process, USGS and NASA scientists developed a repeatable, quantitative mapping method that will allow us to monitor shoreline erosion after oil spills in the future,” said study co-author Cathleen Jones of JPL.

The study, “Wetland shoreline recession in the Mississippi River Delta from petroleum oiling and cyclonic storms,” was published in Geophysical Research Letters.

mapusg
This map shows how the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and Hurricane Isaac caused island fragmentation and changes in the Louisiana shoreline between June 2009 and October 2012. Graphic by USGS.

Original Article And Learn More, USGS (11-17-2016)

Deepwater Horizon oil spill caused widespread marsh erosion, Science Daily (09-27-2016)
The Deepwater Horizon oil spill six years ago caused widespread marsh erosion that may be permanent in some places, according to a new analysis of 270 miles of the Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama coasts…

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Resources

Federal

  • Deep Water Horizon Response is the official site of the incident in conjunction with BP, DOI, NPS, USGS, CDC, USFWS, NOAA and other branches of the US government (collectively called Unified Command). Information, including the latest news, photos, area plans, and volunteer information.
  • NOAA is a government program that uses science and research to protect life, property and natural resources. This NOAA site provides maps of the spill and related statistics, including a trajectory forecast map for the oil spill.
  • The Environmental Protection Agency provides data on Air, Land, and Water pollutants including sampling maps and contaminant levels.

Louisiana

  • Volunteer Louisiana is the official site for the State of Louisiana to get involved in the spill response.
  • The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries provides maps of closures to fishing areas in LA.
  • The Louisiana Emergency Office has made Google Earth files of the spill available to the public here http://gohsep.la.gov/oilspill.aspx and also has current information on general closures of waterways, photos, and reports.
  • The Audubon Nature Institute site provides a number for citizens to call if turtles, manatees, dolphins, or other animals are in distress
  • The Oiled Wildlife Care Network is a CA based non-profit is advising folks in the Gulf of Mexico on best practices and provide resources on how people can help.
  • The Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana is a non-profit organization who strive to protect and restore coastal Louisiana. Volunteers are needed for numerous actions including: monitoring, oiled wildlife recovery, boat driving, or simple monetary donations.
  • The Greater New Orleans Foundation is a philanthropic organization in Louisiana and the surrounding region that joins with other non-profit, foundations and community and government officials to address the needs of the community. The Foundation has opened the Gulf Coast Oil Spill Fund.
  • The Louisiana Bucket Brigade is an environmental health and justice organization working with communities near oil refineries and chemical plants. They aid residents in these regions to reduce pollution and protect public health. The Brigade has formed an incident map where you can report observed signs of oil.

Alabama

  • The Alabama Coastal Foundation is an education based organization whose mission is to project the quality of Alabama’s coastal resources. They are currently training volunteers to help directly with the spill response.
  • The site by the Alabama Governor’s Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives gives basic phone numbers.
  • The Mobile Bay National Estuary Program is an organization funded by the EPA fighting the environmental challenged facing Mobile Bay. This site gives e-mail addresses and phone numbers to help and provides basic information.
  • The Mobile Bay Keeper is a group of citizens who are interested in preserving the Mobile Bay watershed as well as protecting the health of the individuals and environment in the Bay. Check out the latest information about the spill and learn how to become a member and donate to the cause.

Mississippi

Florida

  • The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is the lead agency in FL and this website provides the most thorough information in the state.
  • Volunteer Florida, the website of the Governor’s Commission on Volunteerism and Community Service and the State Emergency Response Team, lists volunteer opportunities by county.
  • The Escambia County site provides summary points of actions taken by BP and FL with a focus on the County.
  • The Pinellas County site is a concise list of related local websites and numbers for information.
  • The Gulf County site has current news on the spill as it relates to the county
  • Volunteer directly with the largest wild bird hospital in the United States, the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary.

Organizations and other networks

  • American Birding Association
  • Audubon is a global leader in protecting birds and other wildlife and their habitats. They are partnering with other organizations.
  • The Sierra Club is a grassroots environmental organization that works to protect communities, wild places, and the planet. Updates on the oil spill, as well as volunteer and donation information.
  • The Nature Conservancy is a conservation organization with a mission to preserve and protect ecologically significant lands and waters for nature and people. Learn more about the oil spill and how to help out at http://www.nature.org/wherewework/northamerica/states/alabama/features/oilspill.html and check out their blog.
  • Sea Grant is nationwide network (administered through NOAA) of 32 university-based programs that work with coastal communities on environmental stewardship and the responsible use of our coasts. The Gulf of Mexico Sea Grant Programs provides resources to educators with research that may be impacted by the spill.
  • The National Wildlife Federation is America’s largest conservation organization whose mission is to protect and restore wildlife habitat, confront global warming and connect with nature. Get the latest information on the oil spill crisis and how to help.
  • The mission of Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research is to provide rehabilitation of injured, orphaned, and oiled native wild birds to return to their natural environment. Donate to their research.
  • Green Peace is an international organization that strives to save the planet from environmental threats such as global warming, destruction of forests and deterioration of the oceans. Follow their blog and learn how to take action.
  • Global Green USA is an international environmental non-profit organization with an office in New Orleans that strives to fight global climate change, eliminate weapons of mass destruction and create clean, safe drinking water for all. Follow their blog and get involved.
  • Matter of Trust is a non-profit organization focused on materializing sustainable systems by mimicking Mother Nature as well as concentrating on manmade surplus, natural surplus and eco-educational programs. Learn very simple ways to help the oil spill crisis.
  • The official Facebook page of Unified Command.
  • BP Gulf of Mexico response.