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Large Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone


Last updated 8/20/2015 at 3:36pm

Large areas of ocean water that are mostly devoid of oxygen are called “Dead Zones,” and these are increasing worldwide. A major threat to marine life, dead zones are triggered by nutrient-rich discharges from farms, sewage treatment plants and other sources. The dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico is believed to be the second largest human-caused dead zone in the world. Data from this year indicates that the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico is above its average size, likely due to heavy rains this summer in the Mississippi River Basin. Rainwater picks up nitrogen and phosphorous when it flows over farm fields and urban lands and this nutrient-laden water triggers algae to bloom and die in the warm Gulf of Mexico water. The algae die-off causes oxygen in the water to be used up and a dead zone is created. Low oxygen water is deadly to many marine organisms. One of the largest dead zones forms in the Gulf of Mexico every Spring as farmers fertilize their lands and rain washes the fertilizer into streams and rivers. This habitat normally teeming with life then becomes a liquid biological desert.

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