[Coral-List] Help Ban Oil Exploration

Studivan Michael Scott msstudivan at smcm.edu
Tue May 3 12:26:08 EDT 2011

I'd like to shy away from the economics side of things for my response.

I recently completed a thesis for my undergraduate institution, where I conducted a stress exposure study using Corexit EC9500A and the Indo-Pacific soft coral Xenia elongata (pulse coral). Keep in mind I only looked at dispersant effects, but upcoming research will be analyzing crude and dispersed oil effects, which tox tests indicate are more toxic than dispersant alone. X. elongata is a pretty tough coral and after exposures of 0-50ppm, I saw some major damage reported through percent bleaching, pulse rates, and oxygen production. Anything above 20ppm was enough to lead to heavy bleaching, infection, and colony death within 72 hours. The lower concentration treatments may have been able to survive if given ample time after exposure, but unfortunately I was unable to measure the recovery process.

Scary stuff, indeed. I would love to expand this research to other species (including hard corals) and to entire reef assemblages. But, given my data with one species, it appears that a spill in which dispersants are used could be pretty devastating to a country like Belize. I've seen what the cover is like there now, so I can only imagine it would go downhill, maybe to a point beyond recovery. Who knows what will really happen, but I'd hate to find out the wrong way after a large spill in the future.

Michael Studivan
St. Mary's College of Maryland
St. Mary's City, MD

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