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Posted Sat May 15 2010: from
Tiniest victims of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill may turn out to be most important
But scientists who know these estuaries best are more concerned about a less photogenic community. The grass, microscopic algae and critters living in the wafer-thin top layer of marsh mud - called the benthic community - are the fuel that drives the whole system. If it's covered with oil, everything above, including birds, fish and cute, furry critters, will be in trouble. And so will the humans who rely on the marsh for storm protection and seafood production. "The top two millimeters of that marsh muck is where the action is in a coastal estuary," said Kevin Carman, dean of the College of Basic Sciences at LSU. "That's the base, the food that fuels the whole system... fish, shrimp, oysters, all the species that rely on the estuary." Half of the all the life created in the one of the world's most productive estuaries takes place in this slimy zone just seven-hundredths of an inch thick. It's a world too small for the human eye to detect and involves creatures few people have ever heard of, but one that looms huge for the larger critters in the system.... But if the oil is thick enough to coat the soil as well as the leaves and stems and seeps into the soil to affect the roots, the impact could be far longer, and much more serious. "In that case it might be five or six years before the oil is degraded enough, because the soil would have no oxygen and no light and the organisms that can degrade the oil would not be there," he said. "We seen examples at inland spills when the soil was soaked, and nothing really grew there for four years."
[Read more stories about: oil issues, wetlands, massive die-off]

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'Doc Michael says:
And here I thought the oil would work like moisturizer!

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  • (Tiniest victims of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill may turn out to be most important)
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  • Size of Oil Spill Underestimated, Scientists Say

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