'Dead zone' warning for Gulf of Mexico

Scientists warn of severe 'dead-Zone' in Gulf of Mexico.

    Scientists fear lower layers of the ocean willl be devoid of marine life because of the 'dead zone' (Gally/Getty)

    While floodwaters continue to wreck havoc in Mississippi, US, scientists have warned of a 'dead zone' in the Gulf of Mexico as well.

    A 'dead zone' refers to an area in the ocean with low oxygen levels or hypoxia which threatens the local ecology.

    In the Gulf of Mexico, a half billion dollar industry is at stake as well. The Gulf of Mexico is home to a commercial fishing industry valued at more than $600m. It also hosts a recreational fishing community worth $1bn more which sees 22 million fishing trips annually.

    This is a regular occurrence in the Gulf of Mexico, but this year's affected area is expected to exceed that of 2002 when more than 8,400 square miles were affected due to high levels of nitrogen in the water.

    Nitrogen levels are around one third above normal levels.

    A record late-winter and spring-rainfall swelled the Mississippi River to a height of almost 48 feet in Memphis, causing the flow rate of the Mississippi to almost double.

    Flooded farm fields, have channeled the nitrogen from farm chemicals into the waters.

    These nutrient-rich waters pouring into the Gulf encourage the growth of tiny marine phytoplankton which feed on the chemicals before dying, decaying and sinking to the bottom of the sea.

    Here they are consumed by bacteria which absorb much of the oxygen in the water causing a condition known as hypoxia.

    It is these lower layers of the ocean, between five and 35 metres, which scientists fear will be devoid of marine life.

    Although floodwaters are expected to decrease, it may be some time before the Gulf of Mexico, its marine life and fishing communities begins to improve.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


    YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

    Double standards: 'Why aren't we all with Somalia?'

    Double standards: 'Why aren't we all with Somalia?'

    More than 300 people died in Somalia but some are asking why there was less news coverage and sympathy on social media.

    How Moscow lost Riyadh in 1938

    How Moscow lost Riyadh in 1938

    Russian-Saudi relations could be very different today, if Stalin hadn't killed the Soviet ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

    Kobe Steel: A scandal made in Japan

    Kobe Steel: A scandal made in Japan

    Japan's third-largest steelmaker has admitted it faked data on parts used in cars, planes and trains.