Marine & Environmental Sciences Faculty Articles


Towards integrated modeling of the long-term impacts of oil spills


Helena M. Solo-Gabriele, University of Miami
Tom Fiddaman, Ventana Systems, Inc.
Cecilie Mauritzen, Norwegian Meteorological Institute
Cameron H. Ainsworth, University of South Florida
David M. Abramson, New York University
Igal Berenshtein, University of Miami
Eric P. Chassignet, Florida State University
Shuyi S. Chen, University of Washington - Seattle Campus
Robyn N. Conmy, US Environmental Protection Agency
Christa D. Court, University of Florida
William K. Dewar, French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS)
John W. Farrington, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Michael G. Feldman, Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative
Alesia C. Ferguson, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University
Elizabeth Fetherston-Resch, Florida Institute of Oceanography
Deborah French-McCay, RPS Ocean Science
Christine Hale, Texas A&M University Corpus Christi
Ruoying He, North Carolina State University
Vassiliki Kourafalou, University of Miami
Kenneth Lee, Fisheries and Oceans Canada
Yonggang Liu, University of South Florida
Michelle Masi, National Marine Fisheries Service, NOAA
Emily S. Maung-Douglass, Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge
Steven L. Morey, Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University
Steven A. Murawski, University of South Florida St. Petersburg
Claire B. Paris, University of Miami
Natalie Perlin, University of Miami
Erin L. Pulster, University of South Florida
Antonietta Quigg, Texas A&M University at Galveston
Denise J. Reed, University of New Orleans
James J. Ruzicka, Oregon State University
Paul A. Sandifer, College of Charleston
John G. Shepherd, University of Southampton
Burton H. Singer, University of Florida
Michael R. Stukel, Florida State University
Tracey Sutton, Nova Southeastern UniversityFollow
Robert H. Weisberg, University of South Florida
Denis Wiesenburg, University of Southern Mississippi
Charles A. Wilson, Gulf of Mexico Alliance
Monica Wilson, University of Florida
Katya Wowk, Texas A and M University - Corpus Christi
Callan Yanoff, Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative
David Yoskowitz, Texas A and M University - Corpus Christi

Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

Marine Policy


Oil spills, Impact and damage assessment, Integrated assessment modeling, Systems dynamics, Causal loop diagrams





First Page



Although great progress has been made to advance the scientific understanding of oil spills, tools for integrated assessment modeling of the long-term impacts on ecosystems, socioeconomics and human health are lacking. The objective of this study was to develop a conceptual framework that could be used to answer stakeholder questions about oil spill impacts and to identify knowledge gaps and future integration priorities. The framework was initially separated into four knowledge domains (ocean environment, biological ecosystems, socioeconomics, and human health) whose interactions were explored by gathering stakeholder questions through public engagement, assimilating expert input about existing models, and consolidating information through a system dynamics approach. This synthesis resulted in a causal loop diagram from which the interconnectivity of the system could be visualized. Results of this analysis indicate that the system naturally separates into two tiers, ocean environment and biological ecosystems versus socioeconomics and human health. As a result, ocean environment and ecosystem models could be used to provide input to explore human health and socioeconomic variables in hypothetical scenarios. At decadal-plus time scales, the analysis emphasized that human domains influence the natural domains through changes in oil-spill related laws and regulations. Although data gaps were identified in all four model domains, the socioeconomics and human health domains are the least established. Considerable future work is needed to address research gaps and to create fully coupled quantitative integrative assessment models that can be used in strategic decision-making that will optimize recoveries from future large oil spills.


[Graphical Abstract]

Additional Comments

Highlights • A conceptual framework was developed for an integrated oil spill model that can be used to answer societal level questions. • Framework includes four knowledge domains: ocean environment, biological ecosystems, socioeconomics, and human health. • A causal loop diagram was developed to evaluate linkages and data gaps. • System separates into two tiers, the natural systems and human systems. • The largest knowledge gaps correspond to the socioeconomics and human health domains.





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