Record-breaking dead zone expected in Gulf of Mexico

Record-breaking dead zone expected in Gulf of Mexico
News Center 23

POSTED: Friday, July 12, 2013 - 3:35pm

UPDATED: Saturday, July 13, 2013 - 9:38am

“What a dead zone is, is basically a layer of water that is without oxygen.”

The dead zone is caused when nitrogen-based fertilizers from Midwest cornfields wash off into the Mississippi River, eventually flowing into the Gulf of Mexico. That fertilizer run-off makes algae bloom, die and then decay. This process removes oxygen from the water.

This summer, the dead zone will affect more bottom-dwelling marine life in the Gulf of Mexico than ever before.

“There’s bacteria down there that uses up the oxygen. There’s oxygen produced by all the plants in the upper layer, but down below, where like shrimp live, uh, clams, crabs, muscles, you name it – they can’t get any oxygen, so they can’t live there.”

“In order to mitigate the size of the dead zone, most states have agricultural extension services that teach farmers how to use fertilizers sparingly and use best management practices on their crops. This will help reduce the amount of nutrients going into the Mississippi.”

“And of course cities, it’s tough to remove the nutrients, but some are installing wetlands that will take the nutrients up before they go into the Mississippi. So, there’s a lot of work being done, but it’s an overwhelming amount of water that comes down the Mississippi River.”

Tropical storms can also help reduce dead zones by mixing water, which will re-oxygenate the area.

Reporting in Brownsville, Marty Watson, KVEO News Center 23.

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