Preparing for the Inevitable: Ecological and Indigenous Community Impacts of Oil Spill-Related Mortality in the United States’ Arctic Marine Ecosystem

Last modified: 
December 13, 2019 - 12:51pm
Type: Book Chapter
Year of publication: 2019
Authors: Paul Suprenand, Carie Hoover, Cameron Ainsworth, Lindsey Dornberger, Chris Johnson
Publisher: Springer International Publishing
City: Cham
Pages: 470 - 493
ISBN: 978-3-030-12962-0

While hydrocarbon exploration and extraction in the Arctic ebb and flow, reduced sea ice has opened new travel routes across the Arctic. The opening of the Northwest Passage has allowed larger ships (including oil tankers) and higher traffic into remote regions. More ice loss is expected in the future. With this comes the potential for hydrocarbon spills. To quantify the ecosystem impacts of a spill in the Alaska North Slope region, an Ecospace model using the Ecopath with Ecosim software was developed. We highlight the impacts of four potential hydrocarbon contamination scenarios: a subsurface crude oil pipeline release, a surface platform oil spill, a surface cruise ship diesel spill, and a surface tanker oil spill. Hydrocarbon contamination was modeled using SIMAP (Spill Impact Model Analysis Package), which was developed from the oil fate sub-model in the Natural Resource Damage Assessment Model for the US Department of the Interior and under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA). Spatial-temporal SIMAP results were coupled to the Ecospace model. We show that in all four hydrocarbon contamination scenarios, there are spatial changes in harvested species resulting in long-term declines in harvest levels for the communities within the model area (Nuiqsut, Kaktovik, and Barrow Alaska), depending on the severity of the scenario. Responses to hydrocarbon events are likely to be slow in the Arctic, limited by the ice-free season. We highlight this area for scenario testing as ecological impacts are also an issue of food security to the local communities and human health issue.

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