Oil Spill Permeates the Gulf's Most Productive Environments
According to WRI estimates, the potential damage to marine ecosystem services as a result of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico could be up to $875 million for marine ecosystems and up to $60 billion for coastal ecosystems. This map shows the ecosystems most at risk – coastal marshes and wetlands, plus productive ocean areas near-shore. Coastal ecosystems provide vital ecosystems services including shoreline protection from hurricanes, erosion protection, fisheries, and recreation. Ocean productivity is estimated by measuring the amount of solar energy captured in organic compounds by microscopic aquatic plants called phytoplankton. This process is known as primary production. This energy stored through primary production becomes the foundation for ocean food chains. Scientists estimate net primary production in the ocean using satellite imagery to measure chlorophyll, which is the pigment in plants responsible for photosynthesis. As shown in the map, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill is occurring in some of the most productive ocean areas of the Gulf of Mexico during peak production months and in close proximity to a huge swath of the Gulf Coast’s vital coastal marshes and wetlands.
- Net primary production: Behrenfield and Falkowski and Ocean Productivity
- Wetlands and marshes: GAP Analysis Program (GAP)
- Oil spill area: NOAA Office of Response and Restoration
- State and country boundaries: ESRI Data & Maps collection
Other Featured WRI Maps
Maps From Other Organizations
- NOAA Gulf Response portal
- New York Times Oil Spill Tracker
- ESRI Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill Portal
- Google Crisis Response: Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill
- Defenders of Wildlife Gulf Oil Spill Response and Recovery
- Southern Forests for the Future
This map is part of a continuing project to produce maps that shed light on significant environmental issues throughout the world.