A recently released study explains how lax environmental standards can have disastrous consequences.

Most troubling to scientists was the exceptionally high number of young dolphins that made up close to half of the 186 dolphins that washed ashore from Louisiana to western Florida from January to April 2011. (Credit: University of Central Florida)

According to a two-year study by scientists at the University of Central Florida released last month, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in conjunction with other environmental factors led to a historically high number of dolphin deaths in the Gulf of Mexico. Most troubling was the exceptionally high number of young dolphins that washed ashore.

Graham Worthy, a UCF scientist and co-author of the study, called it a ‘perfect storm’ of factors. “The oil spill and cold winter of 2010 had already put significant stress on (the dolphins’) food resources, resulting in poor body condition and depressed immune response. It appears the high volumes of cold freshwater coming from snowmelt water that pushed through Mobile Bay and Mississippi Sound in 2011 was the final blow.”

The BP Deepwater Horizon disaster in April 2010 dumped millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf, disrupting the food chain. This was in the middle of the dolphins’ breeding season. A sudden entry of high volumes of cold freshwater from Mobile Bay in 2011 imposed additional stress on the ecosystem and specifically on dolphins that were already in poor body condition.

–Story Source: reprinted from materials provided by University of Central Florida.