Deepwater Horizon damage footprint larger than thought


Healthy coral usually has a gold color. Patchy brown growths on colonies, such as this one located 6 kilometers from the Deepwater Horizon site, offer evidence of damage from the oil spill.

Fisher Lab/Penn State Univ.

The footprint of damage from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill has gotten a little larger.

A coral community that sits 22 kilometers from the Macondo wellhead and roughly 1,900 meters deep shows signs of damage from the spill. The damaged coral sits twice as far and hundreds of meters deeper than previously identified coral patches with signs of damage from the spill, researchers report July 28 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

The team notes that most of the known deep-water coral communities in the Gulf of Mexico do not show major damage from the spill. However, two of the newly discovered coral patches do show signs of impact from deep-sea fishing. The findings suggest that human activity is having a cumulative effect on the Gulf’s deep-sea corals.

Ashley Yeager is the associate news editor at Science News. She has worked at The Scientist, the Simons Foundation, Duke University and the W.M. Keck Observatory, and was the web producer for Science News from 2013 to 2015. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and a master’s degree in science writing from MIT.

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