On 20 April 2010, the Deepwater Horizon explosion, which released a US government—estimated 4.9 million barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico, was responsible for the death of 11 oil workers and, possibly, for an environmental disaster unparalleled in US history. For 87 consecutive days, the Macondo well continuously released crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Many kilometers of shoreline in the northern Gulf of Mexico were affected, including the fragile and ecologically important wetlands of Louisiana's Mississippi River Delta ecosystem. These wetlands are responsible for a third of the nation's fish production and, ironically, help to protect an energy infrastructure that provides a third of the nations oil and gas supply. Here, we provide a basic overview of the chemistry and biology of oil spills in coastal wetlands and an assessment of the potential and realized effects on the ecological condition of the Mississippi River Delta and its associated flora and fauna.
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