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‘Every square inch is covered in life’: the ageing oil rigs that became marine oases

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By illuminem briefings

· 2 min read

illuminem summarizes for you the essential news of the day. Read the full piece on The Guardian or enjoy below

🗞️ Driving the news: Decades-old offshore oil platforms off the coast of California have surprisingly become flourishing marine ecosystems
• As the state and nation transition towards greener energy alternatives, there's a growing debate over the fate of these unintentional habitats
• Some view them as remnants of a harmful industry that should be entirely removed, while others, including many scientists, believe they should be preserved due to their significant biological value

🔭 The context: These offshore oil platforms, constructed between 1967 and 1989, were meant for fossil fuel extraction
• However, over the years, these structures, with their intricate underwater metal lattices, have transformed into habitats teeming with marine life, from tiny barnacles to larger species like rockfish and sea lions
• Such rich biodiversity rivals even natural oceanic environments, making the platforms some of the most "productive" marine habitats globally

🌍 Why it matters for the planet: These "accidental oases" highlight nature's incredible adaptability and the potential for human-made structures to support marine biodiversity
• Removing these structures could destroy these thriving ecosystems, potentially resulting in significant biodiversity loss
• Conversely, leaving them untouched presents moral questions about the remnants of the fossil fuel industry and its environmental impacts

⏭️ What's next: As California and the U.S. move away from offshore drilling, there's a need for a balanced decision regarding the platforms' future, with options include completely removing the structures, a costly venture both financially and environmentally, or converting them into artificial reefs
• Such decisions will have profound implications not just for marine ecosystems but also for the broader discourse on environmental conservation and industry responsibility

💬 One quote: “If you take away habitat, then there’s no going back. You would never allow the willful destruction of a kelp bed, or of a rocky reef, even though rigs have similar biodiversity,” (Ann Scarborough Bull, University of California at Santa Barbara)

📈 One stat: According to a study from 2014, the platforms are about 27 times more productive than natural rocky reefs in California in terms of biomass, showcasing their immense value as marine habitats

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