Scientists offer new approach to restoring Gulf


For decades, the ecological accounting following an oil spill has looked something like this: If an acre of wetlands is spoiled, then replace it with another one. Now, with the states along the Gulf of Mexico in the early stages of restoration after the 2010 oil spill, a team of scientists is recommending a more comprehensive approach. A National Research Council report released Wednesday calls for federal and state officials to consider the goods and services provided by the Gulf when determining which restoration activities to undertake. "The equivalency approach might not fully capture the full impact of the spill," said Larry Mayer, a University of New Hampshire marine scientist who chaired the research team. "By taking account the full range of impacts may lead to a wider range of restoration options." For example, in some areas, replacing wetlands with wetlands might not be the most beneficial enterprise. Maybe those living near the spoiled wetlands would benefit more from restored oyster reefs or additional sea grasses, said David Yoskowitz, one of the 16 scientists involved in the study. Each provides varying services, he said. While coastal marshes act as nature's speed bumps during storms, oyster reefs and sea grasses filter water. "They are essentially looking at an acre of wetlands as an acre of wetlands," said Yoskowitz, an economist at the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies in Corpus Christi. "But what they are not talking about is what that one acre of wetlands is doing for Joe Smith down the street. That connection is missing." The congressionally mandated report comes as federal and state officials are considering how to restore the Gulf Coast region after BP's ill-fated Macondo well released millions of barrels into the sea. The federal government estimates the well discharged 4.9 million barrels, while the company claims 3.26 million barrels were released. BP has provided $1 billion for coastal restoration from the spill before the full extent of the damage is known. The oil giant says it has spent more than $24 billion on spill-related expenses, including cleanup costs and compensation for businesses and individuals. The federal government is not bound by the report's recommendations, but the scientists said they are hopeful officials will follow their advice. The report can be found here:



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