Issue Date: August 4, 2008
Dead Zone Near Record Size
The "dead zone" area in the Gulf of Mexico, where seasonal oxygen levels drop too low to support most life in bottom waters, is near record size. Researchers at the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium measured the current dead zone area at 8,000 sq miles, slightly less than the record 8,800 sq miles recorded in 2001. Only the churning of Gulf waters by the passing of Hurricane Dolly kept the dead zone from reaching a new record, researchers say. The area of hypoxia is formed every year when phytoplankton, stimulated by nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus from agricultural runoff in the Mississippi and Atchafalaya Rivers, grow in the Gulf of Mexico. Their rapid growth removes almost all of the oxygen from the bottom waters of the Gulf, making it unfit for life.
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