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National Academies Releases Report on Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Its Impacts with Regard to Ecosystem Services

National Academies Releases Report on Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Its Impacts with Regard to Ecosystem Services

July 19, 2013

The report on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill (DWH) and its potential to impact ecosystem services was released on July 10, 2013 by the National Research Council of the National Academies following briefings by committee members with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (study sponsor), the Senate Committee on Science, Commerce and Transportation and the House Committee on Natural Resources and a public press conference.  Senators Landrieu, Vitter, Shelby, and Cardin requested that Congress mandate the study following concerns from citizens concerned with additional and indirect effects of the DWH on natural resources and their use.

Committee members Larry Mayer (Chair, University of New Hampshire), Nancy Rabalais (LUMCON), Steve Polansky (University of Minnesota), Joe Geraci (University of Maryland), and Michel Boufadel (New Jersey Institute of Technology) presented the results of the study. The committee suggested that ecosystem services (natural resources and the services they provide to the benefit of society) is an additional method to the Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA), currently employed under the Oil Pollution Act to determine the overall impact of such monumentally detrimental environmental events such as the DWH oil spill with over 5 million barrels of oil and gas into the environment. For example, an acre of marsh lost to oiling, rather than being mitigated by the creation of an acre of marsh, should also be considered in relation to the services that the acre of marsh provides to society, such as provision of fisheries, water purification, defense against storm surge, and the aesthetics that the marsh holds for wildlife recreation and viewing.

The NRC committee acknowledged that it is difficult to come up with a valuation method for all ecosystem services, especially those that are more esoteric  such as intrinsic value, but provided a methodology for developing a framework for identifying the ecosystem services, determining the appropriate data to obtain, calculating estimated damage for the various ecosystem services, and designing restoration activities that not only mitigate loss of marshes but also enhance the ecosystem services they provide.

The PDF version of the report is available to download free for personal use at this link: http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=18387. From this page you can also access the Press Release, Report Brief, and Report Summary.