In a press release, U.S. scientists from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported that they had found a huge dead zone at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico. Generally dead zones are approximately 5,400 miles but this newest one is around 6,334 square miles, larger than the state of Connecticut. This translates to four hundred million acres of land.
Our planet has natural dead zones. However, due to human activity, the size of these dead zones is expanding rapidly and this in turn affects the marine ecosystem more rapidly as marine life slowly dies in the area or it abandons the area.
What are Dead Zones?
Dead zones are areas under water where the oxygen levels are so low that all marine life dies in the area. No life survives in such areas.
Why are these dead expanding?
Agricultural runoff from farms and livestock businesses reaches the oceans and seas. It stimulates algal growth. Algae die and decompose due to bacteria which consume oxygen to facilitate the decomposition process. This leads to the formation of dead zones.
How do Dead Zones affect marine life?
Most marine life dies a natural death in a dead zone. If they are mobile marine life such as fish or shrimp, they leave the area. However, if they face even minute exposure to the dead zones these mobile marine species face negative effects. Exposure to these biological deserts changes the diets of the fish as well as their growth and reproduction. These zones also decrease the availability of a few marine species including shrimp.
What can be done to save marine ecosystems and life?
Researchers are currently planning to examine these dead zones and find ways and means to reduce their size as well as their negative impact on coastal resources. The negative impact of coastal resources can lead to a negative impact on the economy.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Assistant Administrator for Water, Radhika Fox said in the press release that the nation and our planet earth has seen the profound effects that climate change brings about to communities such as the historic drought in the West as well as floods. The release reiterated the fact that climate was directly “linked to water, including the flow of nutrient pollution into the Gulf of Mexico.”
Image Author Simon Burchell