Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics

Coral’s Delayed Reaction to Devastating Effects of an Oil Spill

1 October 2015

Oil spills prevent larvae of Caribbean corals from attaching to the reef bottom well after spills are cleaned up

Coral reefs in the Caribbean have been declining for decades, largely as a result of development, overfishing, and disease. An April 2012 oil spill threatened to further harm this fragile ecosystem on the island of Curaçao, as oil blanketed an area roughly the size of thirty soccer fields. The spill occurred weeks prior to the annual spawning season for many corals, prompting an international team of researchers, including IBED Mark Vermeij,  Valérie Chamberland and Jasper de Goeij to test how lingering oil contamination affects corals during their earliest life stages. Their research concludes that the oil spill most affected the ability of coral larvae to transition to their adult stage, and that this response became apparent after, rather than during, the time larvae were swimming in oil-contaminated water. Their findindings were recently published in  Marine Ecology Progress Series.

Publication details:

Aaron C. Hartmann, Stuart A. Sandin, Valérie F. Chamberland, Kristen L. Marhaver, Jasper M. de Goeij, Mark J. A. Vermeij: "Crude oil contamination interrupts settlement of coral larvae after direct exposure ends" - MEPS 536:163-173 (2015)


Published by  IBED