"This spill will be lasting for years if not decades," said Doug Inkley, senior scientist at the National Wildlife Federation. Some of the immediate effects of a spill are obvious -- witness the gut-wrenching images of soaked and suffocating seabirds in the gulf.
But some types of ecological damage are hard to measure and can take years to document. Many of the creatures that die will sink to the bottom, making mortality estimates difficult. Damage to the reproduction rate in sea turtles may take years to play out.