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The Deepwater Horizon oil spill ruined long-term shore stability

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Long after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the marshy shores of the Gulf of Mexico were still feeling the effects of the disaster. Marsh grass retained plant-smothering oil, and the soil continued to crumble away at a faster rate than before the spill, causing the shoreline to retreat more rapidly than it would otherwise, a new study shows. 

Following an explosion in April 2010, the Deepwater Horizon rig pumped nearly 800 million liters of oil into the sea (SN: 2/12/20). The disaster killed dozens of humans and untold sea life. And the oil and its by-products were catastrophic for the Gulf ecosystem, both underwater and along the shore (SN: 4/3/15).

But the oil also caused structural damage to the shoreline by killing the marsh plants crucial to holding soil in place, researchers report January 25 in Environmental Pollution. That’s making the coast more vulnerable to tropical storms that may be increasing in intensity due to climate change.

“If the plants are compromised in any way, shape or form, you’re going to lose a lot of land,” says Giovanna…

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