A group of scientists from Louisiana State University, the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium and the University of Michigan, has forecasted that this year’s Gulf of Mexico dead zone will be the size of Connecticut.
In late July, researchers measured oxygen levels in the area during a week-long cruise, and they found out that this year’s dead zone is likely to be 29 percent larger than the average measured during reports carried out in 1978. According to the forecast, this year’s Gulf of Mexico dead zone will be around 5,900 square miles, or roughly the size of Connecticut.
Even if the size is almost the same that has been reported over past years, dead zones are a threat to aquatic ecosystems. The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) funded the forecast, and also several environmental institutions have been working in the reduction of Gulf of Mexico dead zones.
Dead zones, which are also called Gulf of Mexico hypoxic zones, are the product of industrialized actions. In these areas, the presence of toxic chemicals (nitrogen and phosphorous coming from fertilizers and livestock waste) due to industrialized agriculture or improper wastewater treatment has caused low oxygen levels and most aquatic ecosystems and habitats to not be able to survive there.
As per the new forecast, scientists say that “nutrients from farm runoff, sewage, and other sources feed algae blooms, which feed microscopic animals. Algae and animals die, fall and decompose, using oxygen from the bottom up,” as reported by The Dispatch.
Considering that the Gulf of Mexico homes several kinds of marine species, researchers worry about the preservations of aquatic ecosystems in these areas. They also state that some species cannot abandon the low-oxygen dead zone and, as a consequence, fish and habitats die because of suffocation.
The report was published on Thursday, June 9, in Nola journal.
Plans to reduce dead zones
In 2008, a five-year plan was proposed by the-the Mississippi River/Gulf of Mexico Watershed Nutrient Task Force to reduce the area of the dead zone to 1,950 square miles. However, the agency’s goal is far away from being achieved.
The Graham Sustainability Institute has been carrying out an action plan to reduce the area of dead zones. According to Don Scavia, an ecologist and a member of the team funded by the NOAA, such environmental condition should not be accepted and that so far, just little success have been fulfilled by programs of this type.
“The bottom line is that we will never reach the action plan’s goal of 1,950 square miles until more severe measures are taken to reduce the loss of Midwest fertilizers into the Mississippi River system,” he said.
Source: Tech Times