The ripple effects from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill will be complex, pervasive and long-lasting, says Charles V. Ebert, a UB geographer whose expertise is in natural and human-induced disasters.
“You cannot exaggerate or overstate the impact of this oil spill,” he says. “It’s a tsunami of bad news.”
Ebert, professor emeritus of geography, authored one of the first textbooks on disasters, “Disasters: An Analysis of Natural and Human-Induced Hazards.” He will teach his signature course this fall that goes by the same name.
According to Ebert, the use of dispersants has enormously increased the area polluted by the oil, both at the surface and at various depths.
“The oil is held in suspension and it moves with ocean currents,” he says. “The greatest danger is to the animals who cannot distinguish between oil and food particles, and they will begin to feed on them.”
This will do massive damage to the next harvest of bluefin tuna, for example, which, Ebert notes, is already an endangered species. He says the tuna larvae likely are feeding on the oil right now since the adult fish come to the Gulf to spawn each spring.
“That’s just one species,” he says. “Many animals depend on nutrients drifting in the water; for example, the algae, phytoplankton and zooplankton. There is massive poisoning going on there right now.”