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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

Getting that 'Dead Zone' Sort of Feeling...Again

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Thursday, June 20, 2013/Categories: sustainability, environment

It's that time of year when "dead zones" develop in the Gulf of Mexico. This year the hypoxic or oxygen depleted water look to be one of the worst on record. It's enough to make you sick.

NOAA, Louisiana State University, and the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium are forecasting that the hypoxic zone will extend from nearly 7,300 to over 8,500 square miles placing it among the ten largest dead zones recorded. For comparison, this would represent a land area the size of Connecticut, Rhode Island, and the District of Columbia combined on the low-end estimate to the New Jersey on the upper-end.

Dead zones appear when nutrient pollution, produced from agriculture fertilizer run-off, results in massive algae "blooms" that depletes oxygen supporting coastal marine life. Maps of the potential contaminated areas can help local communities try to prepare.

Gulf Coast Dead Zone, 2013  (credit: NOAA, LSU, Louisiana Marine Consortium)

NOAA stated that: "Monitoring the health and vitality of our nation’s oceans, waterways, and watersheds is critical to preserving and protecting coastal ecosystems. These ecological forecasts are good examples of the critical environmental intelligence products and tools that help shape a healthier coast, one that is so inextricably linked to the vitality of our communities and our livelihoods.”

Until alternatives are developed that reduce ag-chemical run-off into rivers and watersheds, dead zones will continue to plague coastal zones like the Gulf. Fishermen, restaurants, tourists, and beach hotels should hope more sustainable approaches to controlling this externally produced pollution as it negatively impacts all their livelihoods and well being. If not, then these "dead zone sort of feelings" will be a permanent part of living along the coast.


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