Worst year yet for Gulf of Mexico dead zone

The deadly cycle: Farming > River > Dead Zone > SHARKS!
The deadly cycle: Farming > River > Dead Zone > SHARKS!
Did you know that the food we grow up here in the Midwest might cause shark attacks down in the Gulf of Mexico? Okay, I might be getting a little sensational but here is my train of thought.

  • We do a ton of farming up here in the central states. This requires lots of fertilizer which in many cases eventually runs into the Mississippi River.
  • The nutrients in this fertilizer flow down to the Gulf of Mexico where they cause a huge area of low oxygen in the water causing fish who can't swim long distances to die.
  • Other fish that can migrate, like sharks, get the heck outta dodge and end up swimming around in larger numbers in beach areas where people swim.

It gets worse. Just today, the BBC is reporting that scientists think that this year's dead zone could grow to 8,500 sq miles, the biggest ever!

I wonder what the "tipping point" is for this issue? I'm not seriously too worried about the shark attacks. But the environmental impacts of the dead zone are huge. How bad will this have to get before people start talking about the issue of fertilizer run-off around the water cooler? Then again, maybe we can get some positive public action during the upcoming shark week, but I am guessing agricultural practices won't exactly be their focus...alas.

Related link

Dead Zone - Great resource on the science behind the Dead Zone from none other than...us, the Science Museum of Minnesota.

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