I have commented a lot in the past on the dead zones that infiltrate our oceans, advertising yet another misuse of the planet God, Mother Nature, or whomever you believe granted us the use of this planet. It is an even further trajesty (a mix of travesty and tragedy) that though we have what is needed to fix the problem, we do not.
Dead zones are created, in the beginning, by nitrogen (among other things). Nitrogen is the byproduct (in this instance) of natural gas transformed in to ammonia fertilizer, which is then spread across the agricultural landscape of many western and emerging nations.
From there the runoff makes its way to streams, then rivers and finally the oceans. It is at this stage upon reaching the ocean that the real trouble begins. The increase of nitrogen in the waters fuels the increase of algae which subsequently absorbs exorbitant amounts of oxygen, making life unbearable for most creatures, excluding the jellyfish, but especially coral.
The blame cannot be entirely laid at the feet of the farmers of the world, with human sewage adding to the problems. But with the enormous agricultural growth occurring the world over, the problem is a sad and expected tagalong.
The World Resources Institute recently mapped the dead zones of the planet – at least those made known – and found that a total of 415 existed planet wide. The total of eutrophic zones – zones being overly rich in fertilizer – consisted of 169 that are definitely hypoxic – without oxygen – and another 169 that probably are.
But the researchers believe that the number is shy of the real total, considering that many developing nations simply haven’t the resources to dedicate towards the research needed.
The above map pinpoints ‘Areas of Concern’, ‘Documented Hypoxic Areas’ and ‘Systems in Recovery.’ Sadly, and depressingly considering we have the knowhow, only 13 zones manage to achieve a green dot, indicating being ‘in Recovery.’
For you Americans, two of the ones that will stick out the most to you are the dead zones in Chesapeake Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, but you aren’t the only ones (however the Gulf of Mexico is the world’s largest, measuring in at the size of New Jersey). I’ve got several down here in Australia, Europe is crowded with them, and the east coast of mainland China and Japan has a few too.
But not surprisingly, there are several major areas lacking on this chart; South America has only areas of concern, and Africa has even less, similar to south and west Asia. Is this because the third world countries inhabiting those regions are less likely to produce the necessary run off, or because they don’t have the money to investigate if they are making a problem?
“Our findings highlight the dramatic growth of areas receiving the endflows of nitrogen and phosphorus created by agriculture, increasing industry, fossil fuel combustion, and population growth,” Mindy Selman, one of the researchers, wrote. “More than 1,000 scientists estimated, in the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, that, as a result of human activities over the past 50 years, the flux of nitrogen has doubled over natural values while the flux of phosphorus has tripled.”
Add another mark to humanities war against this planet please…
The Daily Green – 400-Plus Coastal Zones Are Dying
Photo Courtesy of jurvetson via Flickr