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Determining the Ecological Effects of Oil Pollution in Marine Ecosystems

  • Robert W. Howarth
Part of the Springer Advanced Text in Life Sciences book series (SATLIFE)

Abstract

Massive amounts of oil hydrocarbons enter coastal oceans from both accidental spills and routine, chronic discharges. Although it is known that oil is toxic to many organisms, current knowledge does not allow precise estimation of ecological damage resulting from oil pollution. At present, most governmental agencies that regulate chronic sources of oil pollution rely on an excessively simplistic approach to estimate damage: determination of lethal toxicity in short-term bioassays. This approach probably underestimates ecological damage, perhaps greatly so. This chapter is a synthesis of what is known about the ecological effects of oil pollution in marine ecosystems, with an emphasis on more sophisticated approaches to estimating effects. Public attention following oil spills often centers on the death of sea birds and contamination of shellfish; these indeed can be serious problems (Teal and Howarth 1984; National Academy of Sciences 1985). However, the potential for ecological damage is much greater than this, and it is the less obvious but potentially more far-reaching problems that are emphasized here. Portions of this manuscript have been previously published as part of a site-specific assessment of the potential effects of oil pollution on Georges Bank (Howarth 1987).

Keywords

Dungeness Crab Phytoplankton Species Composition Planktonic Ecosystem Marine Ecosystem Research Laboratory Canadian Technical Report 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York Inc. 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert W. Howarth
    • 1
  1. 1.Section of Ecology & Systematics, Corson HallCornell UniversityIthacaUSA

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