Friday, June 4, 2010

Gulf Oil Disaster affects Foraminifera - some ideas

The Gulf Oil Disaster heavily affects the foraminiferal communities in the Gulf of Mexico.

As a nutrient rich and warm part of worlds oceans the Gulf of Mexico is packed with foraminiferal communities and a high diversity is on record. The Deep Horizon explosion causes the death, migration and misbuilding of billions of foraminifera.


Foraminifera depending on coral reefs and mangroves will be heavily affected as the basis of their live will be harmed, diminish or vanish.

Peneroplis reported from the Gulf will be a looser, too big, too complex, living too close to the shore in shallow water.

Benthic Foraminifera living on and above the sediment will die in areas covered by oil.

The toxical chemicals used to disperse the oil and the oil flares will harm or kill all kind of foraminifera whether drifting or living and cause misbuildings as observed with heavy-pollution.

Near shore foraminiferal communities will heavily be affected as the oil will not be taken away as on the shore, but tends to drift to the shore.

Big and complex structured foraminifera, depending on better environmental conditions will be overall the loosers and some species may even die out.


Deep infaunal foraminifera used to nearly anoxic conditions will at first hand not be affected at all. They may even get the chance to conquer life space left empty by others. Such an effect has been recorded after the Mount Pinatubo ash covered the ocean floor in the surrounding oceans with Reophax. Reophax is in the fossil record since more than 400 Mya and has survived crises as global freezing, meteor impacts ...

30 Mio. year old Reophax from Germany looks the same as recent ones. It is also reported from the Gulf area.

Simple structured and less demanding Foraminifera will overcome the crisis more easily and may temporarily conquer new life space.

Total effects as derived from observations of other crises such at the K/T (=Dinosaur) extinction event

1. The bio-diversity will diminish
2. The size of individuals and richness of ornamentation will be reduced
3. The recovery process will establish new communitarial structures

Total effects due to the short impact time and local limitation from an evolutionary point of view

1. New species are not likely to evolve. The reproduction cycle in warm waters may be short like 3 months, but even over a period of 30-50 years it may not be enough time.

2. Dead areas will be invaded first by foraminifera still alive such as in the sediment or from nearby less affected areas.

3. The heavy pollution by oil and chemicals does most likely not kill all foraminiferal live in the whole Gulf of Mexico. Simple and very tolerant species will most likely take over. Coral reef and mangrove dependant species may die out.