, Volume 21, Issue 7, pp 1865-1876
Date: 17 Apr 2012

SpeciesMap: a web-based application for visualizing the overlap of distributions and pollution events, with a list of fishes put at risk by the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill

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Abstract

The 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill was the largest in history outside of warfare and because the spill occurred in the deep sea, its impact on the biota will be difficult to assess. To help address this problem we have created SpeciesMap (http://speciesmap.org), a web-based application (web app) that allows a user to synthesize data on the oil spill with distributional records and other information on marine species. We have combined satellite image data collected over the course of the oil spill with locality data from historical collection records of fish species in a geographic information system. In doing so, we have created maps to assess which species were potentially in the region of the spill and to what degree their range was exposed to pollution. To evaluate the impact of the spill, we examined and categorized various levels of overlap between the observed surface range of the 2010 spill with collections records for 124 fish species including all 77 endemic to the Gulf of Mexico. More than half of all species examined (including more than half of all endemics) were found to have population records in the region of the spill. SpeciesMap contains interaction maps for all the species examined and these data can be used to target post-spill collections, to evaluate changes in habitat, and to discover extirpations or extinctions in response to environmental disturbances.