People, Environment

Massive Polluted Zone Discovered in Gulf of Mexico

Massive Polluted Zone Discovered in Gulf of MexicoMassive Polluted Zone Discovered in Gulf of Mexico

Scientists have found a polluted “dead zone” of ocean that is larger than Wales and the biggest ever recorded in the Gulf of Mexico. The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said this year’s Gulf of Mexico dead zone consisted of 8,776 square miles of oxygen-starved sea, covering an area significantly bigger than the 8,020 square miles of Wales, Independent recorded. The dead zone forms annually, mainly because of farm fertilizer pollutants washing into the Atlantic from the Mississippi River, but this year’s affected area was the largest since recording began in 1985.

Once in the sea, the nutrients stimulate massive growths of microscopic algae called phytoplankton. These then die, sink to the seafloor and decompose, stimulating a burst in bacterial growth.

These bacteria consume not just the algae, but also much of the oxygen in the sea.  The resulting hypoxia–low oxygen–means that marine life forms that can’t or don’t move are at risk of suffocating.  

The environmental campaign group Mighty Earth has blamed the meat industry for the dead zone, claiming much of the nitrate and phosphorous pollution came from fertilizer used in producing vast quantities of corn and soy to feed meat animals.


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