An oil spill can cause enduring long-term damage to local physical habitats because of its toxic components. Research does indicate that oil contamination can persist in the marine environment for many years after an oil spill and can damage the physical environment for some time to come. For example, salt marshes and mangrove swamps can be contaminated and thus marred for decades after an oil spill (Kingston, 2002).
An oil spill can cause some species to disappear forever. The reality is that some species are positively devastated by the introduction of oil into the local habitat. The Tsesis oil spill of October, 1977, saw benthic amphipods of the genus Pontoporeia and the polychaete Harmothoe sarsi Kinberg destroyed almost completely within a short period of time (Elmgren et al, 1983). However, there is also evidence that some species can resist the ravages of an oil spill and may actually become predominate in an affected area as a result. For example, the clam Macoma balthica showed resistance in the aforementioned spill; likewise, though ostracods, harpacticoids, turbellaria and kinorhynchs were debilitated, nematodes were actually quite strong in the aftermath and showed great resiliency (Elmgren et al, 1983). Thus, the fragile balance is certainly turned upside down by the introduction of an oil spill.