High-priority research needs for oil spills in Canada: Summary of a royal society expert panel report on the behaviour and environmental impacts of crude oil released into aqueous environments

Kenneth Lee, Michel Boufadel, Bing Chen, Julia Foght, Peter Hodson, Stella Swanson, Albert Venosa

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

An Expert Panel convened by the Royal Society of Canada conducted a comprehensive review of the chemistry, fate, behaviour, and toxicity of crude oil in aquatic environments, as well as spill modelling, response and clean-up options. The Panel's Report (https://www.rscsrc. ca/en/expert-panels/rsc-reports), which included consultations with key industry, government and environmental stakeholders in Canada and detailed analyses of several spill case studies, identified the following critical research needs: 1. Assessment of the impact of spilled crude oil in high-risk and poorly understood areas such as Arctic, deep ocean, and freshwater ecosystems. 2. Research to support an ecosystem services approach to oil spill assessment; this research would include effects of oil spills on populations and communities of aquatic organisms, cumulative and interactive effects, effects on ecological processes, and socioeconomic impacts. 3. A national, priority-directed program of baseline research and monitoring with a focus on high-risk, poorly understood areas across a range of existing human disturbance. 4. Field studies (including the controlled release of oil) involving a spectrum of crude oil types in different ecosystems and conditions, and research at sites of previous oil spills in Canada. 5. Studies of the efficacy and potential environmental impacts of spill response strategies, with emphasis on measures tailored to the Arctic and freshwater systems, ensuring that plans and funds are in place to investigate spills as they occur, and addressing the question of "How clean is clean?". 6. Research on improved spill prevention as well as development and application of decision support systems to ensure sound response decisions and effectiveness. 7. Updating, refining and focussing risk assessments of oil spills in Canada, including: follow-up relative risk assessments in high-sensitivity areas; development of a comprehensive national database of the fate, behaviour and effects of various types of spilled oil; research on the toxicity of oil to include a wider range of species, environmental variables and life history stages; and, methods for developing credible spill scenarios and analyses of seasonal differences in the fate, behaviour and effects of oil. Delays in responding to spilled oil affected the outcome of all 10 oil spill case studies examined, with human error (individuals and organizations) playing a dominant role. Absent or inadequate planning, limited data analysis, inadequate training, poor communication, insufficient personnel and equipment, poor or no information sharing, and lapses in regulatory oversight were common to most, if not all, spill case studies. The ability of aquatic ecosystems to recover from an oil spill may be influenced by the presence of other longer-term environmental stresses (e.g., habitat degradation caused by urban development; co-exposure to other urban and industrial effluents in coastal and fresh waters). In most cases, limited pre-spill baseline data and site-specific information on the efficacy of available spill response tools may have impeded the selection of the optimal spill response plans and hampered our ability to predict or monitor the long-term effects of the oil spills on populations and communities of aquatic life. Similarly, environmental effects monitoring following spills requires additional standardization (beyond the shoreline SCAT surveys) in order that consistent and reliable data are collected in the near-, medium- and long-term.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages966-991
Number of pages26
StatePublished - 2016
Event39th AMOP Technical Seminar on Environmental Contamination and Response - Halifax, Canada
Duration: Jun 7 2016Jun 9 2016

Other

Other39th AMOP Technical Seminar on Environmental Contamination and Response
CountryCanada
CityHalifax
Period6/7/166/9/16

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution

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