Impact of Exploratory Wells, Offshore Florida: A Biological Assessment
Abstract:Seven offshore exploratory oil well sites were examined in an effort to determine the ecological impact of exploratory drilling on the subtropical marine ecosystems of southern Florida, including seagrass beds and coral reefs. The time since drilling ranged from 2 to 29 years; water depths varied between 5 and 70 m. The major long-term ecological impact observed at these sites ranged from the creation of "artificial-reef" conditions to the physical destruction of hardbottom habitat that had not recovered in 29 years. Long-term ecological perturbation appeared to be limited to physical destruction and the deposition of drilling debris, which provided substratum for settling organisms. Significant deposits of drill muds or cuttings were not encountered at any of the sites, and there was no evidence of ecological damage from cuttings or drill muds. The results of this study pertain only to exploratory drilling that, unlike production wells that remain in place for tens of years, is a one-time perturbation to the habitat.
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: January 1, 1991
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