Buried Oil in the Intertidal Beach Zone: Coupling between beach morphodynamic, natural degradation, forcing mechanisms and biological activity


oildebeach The main protocols and manuals for shoreline assessment and clean-up after an oil spill consider that the basic contamination mechanism in beaches is penetration. That is, downward percolation of oil to a depth of about 40 cm. However, recent works have revealed that the oil burial promoted by the beach morphodynamics is an important contamination mechanism, mainly on sandy beaches. Besides, this buried oil continuously degrades by means of biodegradation, dissolution and physical processes. This process was the main contamination mode in the sandy beaches affected by the Prestige Oil Spill (POS). These results have shown that there is a poor understanding of the subsurface oil contamination mechanisms and processes, and that the assessment procedures and clean-up strategies are not properly defined.

The OILDEBEACH project focuses on the improvement of the morphodynamic-driven oil burial model to support the decision-making in the assessment design. One important part of the project is the numerical modelling of hydrodynamics and morphodynamics on inner shelf and nearshore zones contaminated during oil spill. The development of bioremediation strategies as an accelerating factor of the subsurface oil degradation will be also integrated.

Based on our previous and new data collected after POS, the three main aspects addressed will be (i) the capacity to quantify the amount and state of oil in a given beach; (ii) the knowledge of the main factors controlling natural degradation of buried oil and; (iii) the definition of the area where bioremediation will be applied, based on lab experiments. The final outcome will allow an improved response to recent oil spills and even reevaluating the possibility of the existence of buried oil from ancient oil spills.

A four-step protocol will be proposed as a main conclusion of the project.


ERA-NET In the Sixth Research Framework Programme (FP6), the Coordination of Research Activities was an objective of Community action to contribute to the creation of the European Research Area (ERA) by stimulating and supporting programme coordination and joint activities conducted at national or regional level, as well as among European organizations, and thus help to develop the common knowledge base necessary for the coherent development of policies. These activities may be in any scientific and technological area, including in the thematic priority areas.

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AMPERA Marine pollution, in general, and accidental marine pollution, in particular, are issues of major concern from the standpoint of their impacts on the health of the marine environment and their socio-economic uses. Driven by economic, ecological and security considerations, there is an increasing pressure upon the need for new or improved prevention mechanisms and emergency response systems to better protect the world’s marine ecosystems. In this context, decisions based on sound scientific principles are indispensable for the effective prevention of accidents and efficient formulation of contingency plans.

More information http://www.cid.csic.es/ampera/

David Campos - geoma.net

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