Appl. Chem., Vol. 71,
No. 1, pp. 153-160, 1999
The Use of Mesocosms in Marine
Oil Spill Ecological Research and Development
Timothy J. Reilly
Industrial Economics, Incorporated
Cambridge, MA 02140, USA
Introduction: The use of chemical and biological agents (e.g.
dispersants and bioremediation agents, respectively), as well as certain
physical oil removal techniques (e.g. high-pressure, hot-water applications
to oiled shorelines) during oil spill response operations requires consideration
both of the gross effectiveness of such oil removal/displacement techniques
and of the ecological impact of the response technique. Accordingly,
the intent of response technology optimization requires the identification
of suitable response agents, their application strategies, determination
of mass oil removal effectiveness, and efficient coordination of alternative
response strategies with conventional measures, all compared with traditional
mechanical collection methods and evaluation or relative response ecological
impacts. These issues often need to be examined in an experimental setting
in order to acquire information required to make more effective decisions
during oil spill response and cleanup operations. Controlled field studies
that are designed to identify optimal response and clean-up strategies,
while valuable for realism, are expensive and often difficult to implement
because of regulatory barriers (Reilly et al., 1994)). Conversely, results
from small scale laboratory testing do not incorporate sufficient environmental
realism (variables and scale) to permit confident predictions about
real-world situations. However, bounded and partly enclosed outdoor
experimental units, or 'mesocosms', can closely simulate natural aquatic
environments (Odum, 1984). Such test systems provide a simulation of
real-world exposure without the costs of a controlled-release field
study. Mesocosms can serve to bridge the gap between large-scale field
experiments, with their inherent control difficulties, laboratory experiments
which can be statistically replicated but suffer from a lack of environmental
realism (Rodgers et al., 1996).
Mesocosms have strengths and weaknesses depending upon system design.
Therefore, the type of ecological research to be conducted will dictate
the choice of mesocosm design. The following discussion presents design
requirements and scientific considerations for mesocosm simulations
of marine environments impacted by oil spills. Two existing mesocosm
systems for marine oil spill ecological research in both pelagic and
nearshore environments are reviewed in some detail - the Marine Ecosystem
Research Laboratory (MERL) in Narragansett, Rhode Island, and the Coastal
Oil-Spill Simulation System (COSS), in Corpus Christi, Texas.
Full Text (62k)
return to oil
Page last modified 6 March 2000.
Copyright ©1999-2000 International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry.
Questions or comments about IUPAC, please contact, the Secretariat.
Questions regarding the website, please contact Web