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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 456:285-302 (2012)  -  DOI:

Discharged drilling waste from oil and gas platforms and its effects on benthic communities

J. I. Ellis1,*, G. Fraser2, J. Russell3

1Coastal & Freshwater Research Group, Cawthron Institute, Private Bag 2, Nelson 7010, New Zealand
2Faculty of Environmental Studies, York University, Toronto, Ontario M6H 1T5, Canada
3Alder Institute, Tors Cove, Newfoundland A0A 4A0, Canada

ABSTRACT: This review paper identifies the main effects of oil and gas drilling waste on benthic environments. We identified 26 papers and technical reports that surveyed sediment samples from 72 production or exploration platform sites to assess the zone of influence of sediment contamination and biological effects on benthic communities. While oil-based fluids are now rarely used in the marine context, their release has had large-scale (out to 6 km) and persistent (decadal time scale) impacts on benthic communities. The zone of influence of water-based drilling fluids as determined by sediment barium concentration was larger (2 to 20 km) than for synthetic-based fluids (200 to 2000 m). The zone of biological effects on benthic community diversity and abundance ranged from 100 to 1000 m for both water and synthetic fluids. Effects include changes in benthic species diversity, abundance and alterations to community structure. Functional changes included a loss of suspension-feeding species and increases in deposit feeders and polychaetes. In general, this review demonstrates a loss of benthic biodiversity and suspension-feeding communities due to oil exploration and production and the potential for large-scale effects on sensitive communities such as deep-sea, coral and vegetated habitats. Current research gaps and priorities are identified.

KEY WORDS: Benthic community composition · Chemical toxicity · Organic enrichment · Suspended sediments  · Oil-based fluids · Synthetic-based fluids · Water-based fluids

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Cite this article as: Ellis JI, Fraser G, Russell J (2012) Discharged drilling waste from oil and gas platforms and its effects on benthic communities. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 456:285-302.

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