Mearns Rock: Watching Ecological Recovery from an Oil Spill
"Mearns Rock" is a large boulder located in the intertidal zone at Snug Harbor on Knight Island, Prince William Sound, Alaska. The boulder is located on a very protected, south-facing rocky shoreline that was oiled but not cleaned during the Exxon Valdez oil spill in March 1989. The upper and middle portion of the rock, like the rest of this shoreline, was coated or stained by spilled oil, which was gradually removed by natural processes during the first year after the oil spill.
NOAA biologists have been photographing this boulder—and the animals and plants growing on it—each year (in late June or early July) since 1990, together with conspicuous shoreline features at other non-oiled and oiled-and-cleaned locations. This kind of long-term monitoring helps scientists examine how marine ecosystems recover from a major, one-time stress, such as an oil spill. The boulder measures approximately 4 feet (1.2 meters) high by 7 feet (2.1 meters) long.
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