Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone ShrinksBy Christie Nicholson
July 27, 2009 , Scientific American
[/Below is the original script. But a few changes may have been made during the recording of this audio podcast./]
*The Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium reports that the dead zone in the Gulf is much smaller this year than expected. Christie Nicholson reports*
At first glance it seems like good news: This summer the size of the Gulf of Mexico dead zone <http://www.
Well, it might be smaller—but unfortunately it’s more severe.
Typically dead zones affect waters near the ocean floor but this year the zone extends up closer to the surface.
Dead zones are waters that have become so choked of oxygen <http://www.gulfhypoxia.net/> that they’re unable to support ocean life. Massive amounts of fertilizer runoffs from agricultural fields are what create such hypoxic waters <http://www.gulfhypoxia.net/>. The fertilizer runoff nourishes algae which then feed microbes that consume oxygen.
Scientists say the current shrinkage of this year’s dead zone is due to short-term weather changes, not to any change in an underlying cause.
Unusual weather patterns this year brought high winds and waves in the Atchafalaya River delta and may have infused more oxygen in the shallow waters.
The Gulf of Mexico and Mississippi River Watershed Nutrient Task Force has a goal to reduce the dead zone <http://www.cop.noaa.gov/
And this is an important area because the Gulf of Mexico loses 212,000 metric tons of food due to hypoxia <http://www.