The vast 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill damaged the tiny animals that live on the sea floor for about 57 square miles around the blown-out BP oil well, with severe damage in about nine square miles of that area, says a researcher from Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.
Pollution and damage to animal life was severe nearly two miles from the wellhead and identifiable more than 10 miles away, Paul Montagna wrote in a report published Tuesday in the online journal PLOS One.
Montagna, a professor of ecosystems and modeling, said the refrigerator-cold water a mile beneath the surface means oil takes longer to decay than in shallower waters, where spill recovery has taken years to decades. That means full recovery could take a generation or more, he said in an interview Tuesday.
"This is the first large-scale examination of the impact on the soft bottom, which is the largest habitat in deep water," said Robert Carney, a deep-sea ecologist and professor in Louisiana State University's department of oceanography and coastal sciences. Carney, who was not part of this study, said Wednesday that it was well done.