Chapter Selection 4.3.1 - Priority Recommendations for Enhanced NEBA Applications in the Arctic Next Chapter Previous Chapter

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4.3 Future Research Considerations

The review of the main oil spill response strategies to be used in the Arctic described by the authors in this section led to suggestions of further research which can reduce remaining uncertainties.  The more generic suggestions compiled from this review are summarized below while recommendations that are important for improving Arctic NEBA are listed separately.  Recommendations for further study captured previously within each response option section are summarized below.

  1. Expand effect data for non-water column species.  Data are available on impacts of OSR technologies on species living in the upper pelagic environment.  Additional studies on species living in other ECs (e.g., deep sea, surface layers, ice/water interfaces, hard substrates) should be performed.  Noteworthy limitations of the available data are:
    1. Most of the toxicological information provided for different response strategies is in terms of sensitivity to organisms that are exposed in the water column (generally the upper 10 m) and do not include species that are using deep water, surface layer, ice/water and shoreline interfaces.
    2. Models have been developed to predict the toxicity of a constant concentration of oil and dispersed oil components to these species based on a narcosis model associated with uptake into lipids.  Other modes of action (fouling, epithelial damage, developmental abnormalities, and others) and exposure types (declining dose) need to be considered.
    3. Assimilated information on recent subsea processes is appearing in the peer-reviewed literature; these studies need to be reviewed and important trends summarized.
  2. Expand Assessment to Population-Level Effects, Resilience, and Recovery Potential.   Toxicity evaluations have been generally limited to studies on the acute impact on individuals of a single species and do not evaluate recovery times for the suite of species, at the population-level.  The resiliency of a population to a stressor is built around the population’s ability to recover from the stress, i.e. it is dependent on how widely the species or population is distributed, its reproductive potential, its mobility, and ability to avoid exposure to the stressor.  Knowledge of the length of recovery time for populations living in each environmental compartment is needed prior to evaluating the consequences of each response decision.  Critical summaries of the biological attributes that extend or shorten recovery times need to be developed for populations residing in the different EC that would be affected by response actions.
  3. Examine persistent effects.  Investigations have been conducted on oil and chemical toxicity, generally focusing only on the acute and short term toxicity.  In NEBA decision-making chronic sublethal effects are often treated as acute mortality levels.  An analysis should be performed to better understand the role of chronic sublethal effects in NEBA decision making. This includes the change in bioavailability, toxicity and biodegradation potential of oil and its components as physical weathering and biodegradation occurs after treatment by OSR actions. 
  4. Explore additional modes of toxic action.  There is little information on other types of effects of oil exposure other than toxicity due to water borne exposure and uptake into tissues; additional study of fouling and epithelial tissue disruption by oil or oil residues on organisms that reside or move through the air/water, ice/water or shoreline interfaces or breathe contaminated air above an oil slick is warranted.  Smothering/fouling related toxicity, atmospheric contamination and interference with air breathing mammals and birds has not been well investigated. 
  5. Evaluate potential for impact on the basis of habitat function.  The available information is often concentrated on individual species or groups of species rather than on habitat function.  However, it is the effects on population or habitat which are important in the overall assessments of the consequences of selecting alternative response actions.

4.3.1 Priority Recommendations for Enhanced NEBA Applications in the Arctic

The recommendations presented below indicate where increased knowledge of OSR processes and consequences would result in reducing existing uncertainties in NEBA assessments.  No prioritization has been made to the list; for some of the recommendations, surrogate data may be already available.

  1. Identify VECs and ECs that can be impacted by each OSR.  Develop structured overviews of all VECs that can potentially be impacted by each OSR technology with special focus on VECs at interfaces and on seasonality.
    1. Improve knowledge on the spatial distribution of the living resources and seasonal evolution in the Arctic because large movements of populations occur.
    2. The resources should be ranked in terms of vulnerability to the oil in its different forms:  surfaced oil (fresh, weathered and burnt), dispersed oil, and smoke and soot (in case of burning), oil on the shore.
  2. Collate available data.  Identify data needs for all potentially impacted VECs to score exposure potential, sensitivity, resilience, recovery preferably on a population level basis, using ARCAT approach.
    1. The oiling mechanism on Arctic shoreline and related impact on living resources taking into account the uniqueness of Arctic shoreline which are subject to strong icing periods.
    2. Short and long term effects of dispersed oil on Arctic living resources, especially those which are the most vulnerable and which are identified to congregate locally at certain times of the year.
    3. Data on air emissions should be included as well as residues for ISB (fate, exposure potential, effects, biodegradation).
  3. Highlight uncertainties in data.  Identify data uncertainties and evaluate needs for additional studies such as:
    1. Effects caused by surfaced oil (ingestion, fouling, smothering) to the different living resources of concern (birds, mammals, etc.)
    2. Increased knowledge of the effects produced by-products (smoke, soot and un-burnt residue) of ISB towards the Arctic living resources subject to direct or indirect ISB contact
    3. Effects of herding chemicals and OMA have not been fully evaluated to date.  Investigation of the intrinsic toxicity of chemical herding agents towards Arctic species especially related to the possible exposure to early life stages.