They will present the results of a colossal study
Six years ago the most comprehensive and ambitious research work on the Gulf of Mexico in history began.
The project – arising from the lack of information to understand and act in the event of possible large-scale hydrocarbon spills – had the participation of hundreds of specialists from the most recognized Mexican research and education institutions – the Cinvestav Mérida among them – grouped in the Gulf of Mexico Research Consortium (Cigom).
The results of this extraordinary research and analysis effort have been brought together in the literary collection “Regions, species and ecosystems vulnerable to large-scale oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico”, which will be presented today Thursday at 12 noon, through a live broadcast on the Facebook and YouTube sites of Conacyt and Cigom.
The work, coordinated by doctors Paula Pérez Brunius (Cicese) and Leopoldina Aguirre Macedo (Cinvestav Mérida), presents the scientific bases for strategic planning focused on the prevention, attention and mitigation of oil spills at sea. It also provides elements to strengthen public policies aimed at regulating the activities of the oil industry in favor of the conservation of species and regions of high ecological and economic value in the Mexican waters of the Gulf.
It is a treatise of enormous importance, as it offers for the first time the assessment of species and ecosystems that would be affected in a large-scale spill.
The collection consists of three volumes and an executive summary aimed at decision makers with expert recommendations.
Volume I, “Oceanic and atmospheric scenarios of an oil spill in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico”, focuses on the generation of oil spill scenarios, which allows defining the most vulnerable areas in the event of an eventual accident that started in six hypothetical deep water wells (more than 500 meters). The scenarios were derived from statistics from hundreds of computer-generated spill simulations.
The hypothetical wells – located in a region that begins in front of Tamaulipas and extends to the Bay of Campeche – are in areas of oil activity, which implies the permanent risk of a spill. The analysis also considers scenarios for atmospheric emissions derived from the intentional burning of oil on the sea surface, a common practice as a mitigation measure.
Volume II, “Ecological vulnerability of the Gulf of Mexico to large-scale spills”, includes vulnerability assessments of protected species or species of high economic value – marine turtles, cetaceans and fishing resources – of their habitats and regions. It also contains the analysis of vulnerability from the response to different concentrations and time of exposure to oil of model marine organisms, through experiments under controlled conditions.
Volume III, “Effects of oil spills in the Perdido region on the biological connectivity of the Gulf of Mexico”, analyzes the role of biological connectivity (from two complementary perspectives, larval transport and gene flow) on the potential for recovery of the populations of coastal and continental shelf species that could be affected by a spill in deep wells in the Perdido fold belt region (off the coast of Tamaulipas).
By integrating ocean scenarios with ecological information, it was possible to identify regions, species and marine communities of high vulnerability to oil incidents.
The greatest achievement of this work, according to Cigom, “was to generate spill scenarios to estimate the possible destinations of large-scale hydrocarbon spills in deep waters within the Mexican exclusive economic zone, and combine them with vulnerability models Ecological and Biological Connectivity Assessments to Infer Potential Effects on the Gulf’s Marine Biota and Habitat ”.
The conjunction of diverse scientific disciplines allowed a better understanding of the potential effects of spills on different levels of ecological organization: individuals, populations, communities, habitats and the ecosystem.
Due to the enormous extension, diversity and complexity of the Gulf of Mexico, a great variety of methodological approaches were addressed that were applied at different spatial, temporal and ecological organization scales, covering from the molecular response of model organisms to oil exposure, to the possible impact on large geographic regions.
This plurality of approaches implied the development and implementation of novel laboratory and field methods and techniques, the advancement of numerical modeling tools and the use of geographic information systems, among others. – Megamedia
It was essential to form highly specialized interdisciplinary work teams, as well as to implement coordination and communication strategies between personnel from different institutions.
Cigom Gulf of Mexico
Today the results of the largest study on the Gulf of Mexico will be presented.
The presentation ceremony will take place at 12 noon in the “Juárez” room of the Conacyt national headquarters, in Mexico City.
It will be broadcast live on the Cigom and Cicese sites on Facebook.
The presenters will be Drs. Fabián Vázquez Romaña (representative of Pemex) and Francisco Xavier Chiappa Carrara (National School of Higher Studies —ENES— of UNAM, Mérida).
The event will be chaired by Dr. David Hilario Covarrubias Rosales (CEO of Ciceses and Dr. María Elena Álvarez Bullya (CEO of Conacyt).