The Gulf of Mexico is a special body of water with a flora and fauna that may well be unique. While the Mississippi River continues to be the dominant influence on the Gulf ecosystems, the steady input from natural oil vents which have continuously impacted the Gulf for thousands of years, has also had an effect. Basically, oil is energy from the sun that was captured in plant and animal material and buried eons ago. Based on this energy source, a whole ecosystem has developed deep down at the seabed.
In Habitats and Biota of the Gulf of Mexico: Before the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill, Volumes 1 and 2, editor C.H. Ward has compiled studies on topics such as examinations of water quality, plant and animal life in the Gulf, natural oil seepage, sediments, coastal habitats, and commercial and recreational fisheries. The books include entire chapters on sea turtles, birds and animal disease and mortality in the Gulf.
Originally intended to set a baseline to help assess the effects the Deepwater Horizon spill had on the Gulf, the books provide an extensive overview of the Gulf of Mexico's unique flora and fauna and a detailed assessment of the Gulf's state and health before the Deepwater Horizon spill in 2010.
The studies have been published Open Access by Springer and the eBooks are available for free. Print copies are available for sale. BP paid for production of the books and the Open Access fees.