An ecosystem perspective on potential impacts of drilling fluid discharges on seagrasses

John R. Kelly, Thomas W. Duke, Mark A. Harwell, Christine C. Harwell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Potential effects of oil drilling fluid discharges upon Thalassia seagrass ecosystems were examined using seagrass core microcosms. Observed experimental effects, summarized in this article, included changes in both autotrophic (Thalassia and epiphyte) and heterotrophic (dominant benthic macroinvertebrates) species, and the processes of primary productivity and decomposition. The physical disturbance related to greater turbidity and sedimentation caused some effects, while others seemed a direct response to the toxic constituents of drilling fluids. Using these experimental results and the case of Thalassia and drilling fluids as a case study, we explore general methodological and philosophical issues for ecotoxicology and, furthermore, focus upon the challenge of providing a scientific basis for judging acceptability of environmental changes likely to ensue from human activities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)537-562
Number of pages26
JournalEnvironmental management
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1 1987


  • Drilling Fluids
  • Ecotoxicology
  • Risk assessment
  • Seagrass


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