Five environmental consequences of oil spills

Ben Osborne / Getty Images

Oil spills caused by damaged tankers, pipelines, or offshore oil rigs often result in immediate and long-term environmental damage that can last for decades. These are among the most notable areas of environmental damage caused by spills:

Beaches, Marshlands, and Fragile Aquatic Ecosystems

Oil spills coat everything they touch and become unwelcome but long-term parts of every ecosystem they enter.1 When an oil slick from a large spill reaches a beach, oil coats and clings to every rock and grain of sand.2 If the oil washes into coastal marshes, mangrove forests, or other wetlands, fibrous plants and grasses absorb oil, which can damage plants and make the area unsuitable as wildlife habitat.3

When oil eventually stops floating on the water’s surface and begins to sink into the marine environment, it can have similar damaging effects on fragile underwater ecosystems, killing or contaminating fish and smaller organisms that are essential links in the global food chain. Read more…

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