A spot in the Gulf Of Mexico has been labeled a large “dead zone” which is killing the fish and other sea creatures who live in the area. The zone is located off the Louisiana and Texas coast. The lack of oxygen in these waters is forcing sea life up from the bottom of the gulf to the surface.

The area is measured to be 7,900 square miles and has almost no oxygen. This condition is known as hypoxia. Its size makes it the world’s second-largest hypoxic area. This massive area was predicted by scientists based on the nitrogen content in the Mississippi River watershed. It occurs when the fresh water pouring in from the river floats above the heavier salt in the Gulf. Algae die and fall to the bottom and take up the oxygen faster than it is brought down to decay. Eventually, the lower layer contains too little oxygen for bottom-dwellers such as lobsters, eels, and clams. Another cause of dead zones is an excess of nitrogen from farm fertilizers, sewage, and factory and vehicle emissions.

The Gulf’s dead zone is one of 146 dead zones in the world. Most are found in Europe and the U.S. East Coast and can range from less than a square mile to 45,000 square miles. Scientists hope to reduce the zone to about 2,500 square miles. The number of dead zones has been increasing since the 1970s and threatens fisheries and humans who depend on fish in their diets. Ways to slow down and stop these dead zones from forming are taking place and need to be increased. The area along the Rhine in Europe are now halving discharged nitrogen levels, reducing the discharge into the North Sea. New forests and grasslands are being planted to soak up the excess nitrogen and keep it out of the waters. Vehicles are being required to reduce nitrogen emissions. Alternative energy sources are being looked into as well as better sewage treatment. The goal is to reverse the effects of years of polluting and make it a permanent habit so as to preserve these waters and the rest of the environment.

 

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