DURHAM, N.H. Marine species facing threats from the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico far exceed those under legal protection in the United States, a new paper in the journal BioScience finds. University of New Hampshire professor Fred Short and others found 39 additional marine species beyond the 14 protected by federal law that are at an elevated risk of extinction. These species, which range from whale sharks to seagrass, should receive priority for protection and restoration efforts, the authors advocate.
"A lot of species in the Gulf of Mexico are going to be damaged by this oil spill but aren't on the U.S. radar screen, although they're threatened globally," says Short, who is a research professor of natural resources and the environment at UNH. Along with lead author Claudio Campagna of the Wildlife Conservation Society and others, Short was a major contributor to the paper, "Gulf of Mexico Oil Blowout Increases Risks to Globally Threatened Species," which appears in the Roundtable section of the May 2011 issue of BioScience.
"It is imperative to understand the global consequences of environmental disasters, as a local perspective underemphasizes the incidence on widely distributed species," says the Wildlife Conservation Society's Campagna. "The IUCN Red List data has an unmatched, so far neglected potential to inform policy decisions at a regional level."
The researchers consulted the extensive species database of the International Union for Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) Red List, which assesses species' global survival status via a rigorous scientific process. They found 53 species with a distribution that overlaps the area of the oil spill that are categorized as critically endangered, endangered, or vulnerable by the IUCN Red List. Of these, only 14 receive legal protection in the United States under the Endangered Species Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, or the Marine Mammal Prot
|Contact: Beth Potier|
University of New Hampshire