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Bodies of water, oceans included, form about two-thirds of the earth’s surface and are indispensable to human life (How much water). Oceans house complex ecosystems perpetuate the diversity of life. Because each living thing having a specific function. Such diversity provides us, humans, with many of our basic needs like food and medicine. In our quest for novelty, the mysteries of the ocean’s depths and the species found within have served to occupy our time and effort. The waters serve as settings for our leisure activities. All these are about to change, however – as our own activities have caused irreversible and continuing destruction in our oceans. Unless we act today, oceans would cease to have value for the next generations.

Pollution is the main cause why many ocean species are decreasing in number. Many thousand-gallon oil spills have occurred with damaged tankers out in the ocean. Ships and other modes of ocean transport leave human waste, trash and the by-products of fuel consumption in the water. Garbage and chemicals from industries that are dumped in our streams and rivers eventually find their way to the ocean as their final repository. The degree of damage we have already done has caused the bleaching of corals, displacing the life forms dependent on this habitat. Poisoning of many species has caused deaths in ocean creatures. With the disruption of the food chain, many animals have difficulty adapting in order to survive. Without them, we lose a third of our food source.    

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Many scientists have focused on developing ways to mitigate the damage. Because of the complexity of the issue, it takes concerted efforts and the pooling of expertise to solve the problem. One particularly difficult problem to deal with is oil spills. It spreads with the movement of the water, suffocating the living things in coasts. More often than not, the spilt oil is left alone to be dispersed by the action of the water and broken down by bacteria. Alternatively, chemical dispersants are used to break down the oil so that this can be degraded faster. Where the oil is particularly thick, and the weather conditions allow, the oil is contained and skimmed off the water (How do you clean). The problem with these techniques is that they cannot address the sunken oil below the surface. And that contaminates the deeper ocean environment where more species are found. Accumulation of oil in fish, crustaceans and mollusks compromise the health of all species in the food chain.

However, there are many types of microorganisms in deeper ocean waters which have the capacity to degrade oil into its carbon compounds. These represent the only plausible solution for oil spills that have gone underwater. Since these microorganisms have not been as extensively studied as those that live in surface waters, my purpose in this study is to identify these microorganisms and describe their characteristics. I will also explore their potentials for degrading oil spills under ocean water and what inhibit or hasten the biodegradation process. This is to know which microbe works best given certain circumstances. The knowledge generated by this study will serve as a background for examining the possibility of growing these microorganisms artificially, and seeding them in waters with existing oil spills to accelerate biodegradation in the future.

In this study, I will conduct a literature search and review to explore the microorganisms which will be the focus of study. I will access previous studies by using science, environmental, microbiology or biology journal databases. I will then determine the characteristics of the analyzed environment in terms of depth, temperatures, oxygen levels and water current among others. I will follow this with a list of the known microorganisms which have the capacity to degrade hydrocarbons such as oil. I will organize the research findings to delineate the characteristics of each microorganism including their ability to be grown artificially and be seeded back into the water. Further, I will compare and contrast their functions. I mean type of oil metabolized, conditions for effective biodegradation, and factors that may slow down or stall the process. From here, I will conclude which organisms can be artificially grown and seeded, as well as those, have the highest efficacy to fight different types of oil spilt.

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