Marine & Environmental Sciences Faculty Books and Book Chapters

Oil Refinery Impacts on Coral Reef Communities in Aruba, N.A.

Chapter Title

Oil Refinery Impacts on Coral Reef Communities in Aruba, N.A.

Book Title

Proceedings of the Colloquium on Global Aspects of Coral Reefs: Health, Hazards, and History


Document Type

Book Chapter


Robert N. Ginsburg


[Chapter Abstract]

From 1925 to 1985, Lago Oil and Transport Co. operated a transshipping terminal and refinery on the southeastern coast of Aruba, N.A. This facility has affected the nearshore marine ecosystem through both oil contamination at the harbor and tanker berths, and from disturbance related to shipping, dredging and construction. The impact of this facility on nearby coral reef communities was studied from January 1987 to August 1989. This included an analysis of reef community structure comparing sites adjacent to the refinery with those upstream and downstream, the modern and historical growth of the predominant coral species, and recruitment of new corals. Both upstream and downstream control sites were in good health and exhibited high diversity. In contrast, reefs adjacent to the refinery exhibited low density and diversity of live corals and abundant dead coral rubble. Additionally, periods of construction in the inner harbor and on surrounding spoil islands and high refinery activity corresponded well with periods of reduced coral growth near the refinery. Although the relative importance of oil contamination, sedimentation and other anthropogenic effects is uncertain, our observations suggest that sedimentation and other physical stress resulted in substantial reductions in environmental quality at the disturbed sites. Coral recruitment at the highly impacted sites showed hope for recovery if these environments are protected from renewed perturbation.



Publication Date



Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, University of Miami




Life Sciences | Marine Biology



Oil Refinery Impacts on Coral Reef Communities in Aruba, N.A.
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