Friday, February 11, 2011

New Map shows Marine Dead Zones!

A fascinating map (Click Here) that shows low oxygen ocean and coastal waters has been put together by researchers at the World Resources Institute and Virginia Institute of Marine Science.   So far, they have identified 530 low oxygen “dead zones” and 228 sites with signs of eutrophication (such as, high algae growth, low oxygen, fish kills, loss of seagrass, etc) which often results from nutrient pollution.  Information is limited in many areas due to a lack of study of the problems.  This effort is important for developing a global resource.

People have increased the amount of nutrients, especially nitrogen, that enter marine waters through runoff, rivers, and fallout from the air.  We burn fossil fuels which emit nitrogen into the air, we over-fertilize farm fields and lawns, we discharge large volumes of wastewater, and more…  Similar to how nutrients stimulate grass and crop growth, in the ocean, nutrients promote the growth of algae and alter the types of algae that grow. The algae dies and decays using up valuable oxygen, which fish, shrimp, crabs, and other seafloor creatures need to survive.  Overtime, nutrient pollution can devastate the marine life in a given area.

Globally, the number and extent of low oxygen zones has been increasing and is expected to continue to expand as coastal waters warm due to climate change and nutrient pollution continues to rise.

The largest dead zone in US is in the Gulf of Mexico which is about the size of New Jersey.  Other large problem areas include Chesapeake Bay and in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Oregon

What can we do to reduce nutrient pollution?  The options are many!  Conserve energy and water, invest in renewable energy, repair and upgrade our storm and wastewater infrastructure, reduce fertilizer use and manage our yards and public grounds wisely to reduce erosion and runoff, become a Barnegat Bay Buddy (Click here).

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