Environment Forum

That sinking feeling along the U.S. Gulf Coast

OIL-SPILL/The oil is no longer gushing into the Gulf of Mexico from the broken BP well, and a final “bottom kill” is in prospect — though delayed by an iffy weather forecast. That means the environment’s on the mend along the Gulf Coast, right?

Not really. There’s the little problem of subsidence to deal with.

Because the Mississippi River has been channeled to control flooding, coastal wetlands have been starved of sediment. Without fresh sediment coming down the river, wetlands can’t keep up with erosion and protective marshes can turn into open water. Subsidence is what this phenomenon is called.

This sinking is already occurring near Venice, where marinas cluster around the toe of Louisiana’s boot shape. Take a look at a road that looks like a stream in a video clip I took in mid-July:

The rhythmic clicking sound is the hazard blinker on the car.

Photo credit:  REUTERS/Sean Gardner (Oiled crane on a tree limb on a small island in Bay Barataria near Grand Isle, Louisiana June 12, 2010)

BP, oil and seabirds — Baltic Sea ducks had worse luck

gannetBP’s vast and spreading oil disaster is killing ever more birds and other wildlife in the Gulf of Mexico — but one of the worst spills for birds was a harmless-sounding 5 tonnes of oil in the Baltic Sea in 1976.

That spill from a ship killed more than 60,000 long-tailed ducks wintering in the area after they fatally mistook the slick for an attractive patch of calm water, according to Arne Jernelov, of the Institute for Futures Studies in Stockholm, writing in today’s edition of the journal Nature.

By contrast, he writes that fewer than 1,200 birds have  so far been recorded killed after the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig, which has led to a leak of a gigantic 250,000 to 400,000 tonnes of oil in the Gulf of Mexico.  About 60,000 birds were killed off Alaska in 1989 by the accident usually known as the Exxon Valdez spill (…Exxon’s website calls it The Valdez Oil Spill ), previously the biggest spill off the United States at 37,000 tonnes.

Audubon employees dig deep for the cause

You won’t see this on Wall Street folks.

Times are tough for U.S. non-profit organizations, so tough that some employees at one are donating their own money to help stave off layoffs and keep their projects going.

Employees at the National Audubon Society, an environmental group dedicated to habitat conservation, have pledged about $800,000 through voluntary payroll deductions in an internal donation drive to help see it through the recession. You can see my report here.

Conservation groups are often staffed by people who are passionate about their cause and many are facing tough times as the recession bites.

Climate change making U.S. forests quieter?

Add quieter U.S. forests, woods, and backyards to the list of changes our lives could face from climate change. A piece by my colleague Deborah Zabarenko explores the movement of American birds northward, sometimes hundreds of miles into Canada.

An Audubon Society study of citizen observations that took place over 40 years found that 58 percent of 305 bird species found on the continental U.S. shifted significantly to the north as temperatures warmed. Forest and feeders birds, like finches and chickadees, moved deep into the Canadian Boreal Forest.

Besides the loss of chittering and chirps, what else do you think might be lost from climate-related migrations?

  •