The most complete information on environmental effects of arctic response techniques to date.

This report is the first time the substantial volume of existing research on environmental effects of arctic oil spill response techniques has been reviewed and compiled in one place. The fully searchable report and literature database enable rapid access to a wide scientific knowledge base for minimising environmental impact in oil spill decision-making.

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Key Scientific Findings

In the Arctic, the assumption that the region is more sensitive than temperate areas, has contributed to heightened concerns about the severity of the environmental impacts in the event of an oil spill.

Whether these areas are indeed fragile depends on many factors: how the oil behaves in varying ice concentrations, how species react to and interact with oil, their environments, and stressors as individual organisms, populations and communities.

The review indicated that there is an extensive existing science base for Arctic NEBAs. Many baseline ecosystem and biodiversity assessments have been performed to better understand and protect the marine Arctic. In addition, field and laboratory studies on the fate of oil, oil spill response techniques and potential environmental effects under different seasonal conditions have resulted extensive data sets on oil fate and effects.

There is also evidence to show that arctic species are not more sensitive to dispersed oil than non-arctic species and that they react to dispersed oil exposure in the same way as temperate species do. To fully understand how species are impacted by dispersed oil and how populations recover, the review has recommended follow-up work to study population resilience.

The report also reviewed data that shows certified dispersants and oils treated with these dispersants are not more toxic than oil itself. Another important finding of the review is that biodegradation of oil in the Arctic does occur and that certified dispersants do not reduce the ability of microbes to degrade oil.

Furthermore, the literature review shows that biology tends to aggregate at interfaces like the water/ice interface, which is one of the unique features of the Arctic ecosystem. Undispersed oil might collect at this interface potentially interfering with unique arctic resources. The review recommended that information on the potential effects of oil on these Arctic communities be developed in order to better address these in oil spill response decision making through the NEBA (Net Environmental Benefits Analysis) process.

The review also found that that the behaviour of oil in ice can actually mitigate the environmental impact, as ice results in reduced evaporation, dispersion and emulsification and can form a barrier so that vulnerable resources like coastlines cannot be reached.

Find out more about the review and the next phases of the project here.

Key Scientific Findings

In the Arctic, the assumption that the region is more sensitive than temperate areas, has contributed to heightened concerns about the severity of the environmental impacts in the event of an oil spill.

Whether these areas are indeed fragile depends on many factors: how the oil behaves in varying ice concentrations, how species react to and interact with oil, their environments, and stressors as individual organisms, populations and communities.

The review indicated that there is an extensive existing science base for Arctic NEBAs. Many baseline ecosystem and biodiversity assessments have been performed to better understand and protect the marine Arctic. In addition, field and laboratory studies on the fate of oil, oil spill response techniques and potential environmental effects under different seasonal conditions have resulted extensive data sets on oil fate and effects.

There is also evidence to show that arctic species are not more sensitive to dispersed oil than non-arctic species and that they react to dispersed oil exposure in the same way as temperate species do. To fully understand how species are impacted by dispersed oil and how populations recover, the review has recommended follow-up work to study population resilience.

The report also reviewed data that shows certified dispersants and oils treated with these dispersants are not more toxic than oil itself. Another important finding of the review is that biodegradation of oil in the Arctic does occur and that certified dispersants do not reduce the ability of microbes to degrade oil.

Furthermore, the literature review shows that biology tends to aggregate at interfaces like the water/ice interface, which is one of the unique features of the Arctic ecosystem. Undispersed oil might collect at this interface potentially interfering with unique arctic resources. The review recommended that information on the potential effects of oil on these Arctic communities be developed in order to better address these in oil spill response decision making through the NEBA (Net Environmental Benefits Analysis) process.

The review also found that that the behaviour of oil in ice can actually mitigate the environmental impact, as ice results in reduced evaporation, dispersion and emulsification and can form a barrier so that vulnerable resources like coastlines cannot be reached.

Find out more about the review and the next phases of the project here.