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Effects of the Prestige oil spill, a 10-year study

Effects of the Prestige oil spill, a 10-year study

The length of the time series needed to cover the entire range of variation is critical. Aragón P, Sánchez-Fernández D, Abellán P, and Varela S (2015). Effects of temporal bias on the assessment of an ecological perturbation: a case study of the Prestige oil spill. Environmental Research Letters 

22.09.2015

 

The impacts of unpredictable ecological perturbations are often assessed via measurements of environmental change only after the event has occurred. Temporal series of satellite images provide a cost-effective way to gather information before ecological perturbations occur. However, in previous studies, the disturbances have neither been always centred in time in the series of the focal environmental variable nor has the relevance of the temporal coverage been explicitly tested through factorial designs.

In this study, researchers manipulated the temporal coverage and the position of the disturbance event in the temporal series to examine whether and how the assessment is affected. Specifically, they tested the effect of the Prestige oil spill on monthly sea chlorophyll concentration and net primary productivity along the north-western Spanish coast.

Short periods (three years) were insufficient to cover the range of variability even if the disturbance was centred in the time series. Similarly, results from longer time series (up to eight years) in which the event was temporally biased (at the beginning of the time series) also differed from those that were centred in the entire time window. Temporal series for the study of ecological impacts should be as long as necessary to encompass the temporal variability of the study systems.

Reference Article: Aragón P, Sánchez-Fernández D, Abellán P, and Varela S (2015). Effects of temporal bias on the assessment of an ecological perturbation: a case study of the Prestige oil spill. Environmental Research Letters

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