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While a research faculty member at Old Dominion University, Andrew Wozniak monitored tanks filled with seawater from the Gulf of Mexico and mixed the seawater with oil, plankton and a chemical dispersant used during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill to conduct a chemical analysis of the particles of marine oil snow that fell to the bottom of the tanks.
If you were able to stand on the bottom of the seafloor and look up, you would see flakes of falling organic material and biological debris cascading down the water column like snowflakes in a phenomenon known as marine snow.
Disasters - Deepwater - Horizon - Oil - Spill
Recent disasters like the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, however, have added a new element to this natural process: oil.
During these events, the natural marine snow interacts with oil and dispersants to form what's known as marine oil snow as it sinks from the surface through water column to the seafloor sediments.
Danger - Oil - Snow - Oil - Impacts
The danger with marine oil snow is that it transfers oil and its negative impacts from the water column to the sediments on the bottom of the seafloor, delivering a more diverse suite of oxygenated compounds to sediments and deep-sea ecosystems. These oxygenated forms of many oil compounds are more toxic to organisms in the sediments than are the non-oxygenated forms.
While this result may lessen the impact on near-surface organisms like fish and birds and shellfish, it transfers the oil to the deep ocean where it impacts fauna, deep corals, and fish down there, where adverse impacts were documented after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
University - Delaware - Andrew - Wozniak - Research
The University of Delaware's Andrew Wozniak conducted research to investigate the fate and accumulation of marine oil snow in the Gulf of Mexico, the results of which were recently published in the Environmental Science and Technology journal.
Wozniak, assistant professor in the School of Marine...
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