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Mobile-area scientists warned BP PLC officials and Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen a week ago that the use of dispersants both on the surface and underwater at the Deepwater Horizon well could have grave consequences for the Gulf ecosystem. (read more…)

A very interesting, frustrating and depressing story. The motivation to hurry the use of dispersants stems from the need to minimize the visibility of the disaster. It could have nothing to do with minimizing the impact of the spill itself, because the dispersants themselves have most likely added to the damage. The most immediate impacts of the spill will be toxicity and fouling. But following closely on their heels will be the effects of lowered oxygen in the water column, a result of increased metabolism by hydrocarbon-utilizing bacteria. What happens next? It will be interesting, and depressing, to find out. Sadly, this incident is an opportunity for us to learn a lot about pathways and mechanisms in food webs and other ecosystem networks. Given the army of scientists who have mobilized to study the spill, we should learn a lot in the next few months to years. Let’s hope that it’s put to good use.