Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Potential Solutions For Gulf Of Mexico’s “Dead Zone” Explored

Date:
June 19, 1998
Source:
Ohio State University
Summary:
Researchers are studying ways to control the rush of nitrogen and other chemicals that flow into the Mississippi River watershed each spring and ultimately turn more than 7,000 square miles of the Gulf of Mexico into a “dead zone.”

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Researchers are studying ways to control the rush of nitrogen and other chemicals that flow into the Mississippi River watershed each spring and ultimately turn more than 7,000 square miles of the Gulf of Mexico into a “dead zone.”

Nitrogen and other nutrients cause hypoxia, or the depletion of oxygen in a body of water. Hypoxia in the Gulf stems from human activities in the Mississippi River watershed, which encompasses more than 40 percent of the United States. A federally-appointed task force is currently looking into ways to manage the hypoxia problem.

“The answers to controlling hypoxia essentially come down to using nature to take care of our problems while protecting its biodiversity,” said William Mitsch, professor of natural resources at Ohio State University. “These solutions embrace ecotechnology, which includes restoring or building wetlands and riparian buffer zones along waterways.”

Mitsch leads one of six task force committees currently studying the hypoxia problem in the Gulf of Mexico. His committee is responsible for developing ways to control the pollution that causes hypoxia in the Gulf. The group presented their preliminary results June 9 at an Ecological Society of America meeting in St. Louis.

“Hypoxia is the result of living in an over-fertilized society,” Mitsch said. “We fertilize the living daylights out of the Midwest.” Ecotechnology may be the answer.

“Ecotechnology establishes some degree of natural landscape between human activity and waterways,” Mitsch said. Riparian zones, belts of vegetation next to a waterway, and wetlands both serve as filtering systems. Each essentially “cleans” runoff water of fertilizer by-products.

Hypoxia happens when excess nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, accumulate in a body of water and cause algae to flourish into algal blooms. These blooms thrive on nitrates and phosphates and deplete the water of nearly all dissolved oxygen.

Dissolved oxygen content in the Gulf is normally 5 parts per million (ppm). Hypoxia occurs when this level dips to 2 ppm or lower. The lack of oxygen either forces aquatic life to relocate or kills it.

Hypoxia affects many coastal areas of the world, such as the Baltic Sea and Chesapeake Bay. It is also on the increase in shallow coastal areas such as the Gulf of Mexico, which means a reassessment of priorities is in order, Mitsch said.

“Hypoxia may be a standard of living issue,” he said. “If we decide not to cut back on our pesticides and fertilizers, we may not be able to solve the problem.” The main problem, he added, comes from farming. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, about 56 percent of the nitrogen entering the Gulf is from fertilizer runoff.

“It’s hard for a farmer in the Midwest to connect his activities to problems in the Gulf of Mexico,” Mitsch said, adding that the far-reaching Mississippi River watershed encompasses Midwestern farm fields.

Other potential solutions to the hypoxia problem include reducing the initial disposal of nutrients into waterways; increasing the ability of a watershed to assimilate nutrients; and changing the hydrology of the Mississippi Basin.

“Humans levied the river to make it behave, while the river used to have the ability to naturally flood over its banks and spread nutrients over the landscape,” Mitsch said. “When water naturally spills over the banks, it can drain through a riparian corridor and come back as cleaner ground water.

“It’s our job to assess how well these proposed ecotechnologies will work in dealing with the hypoxia problem,” Mitsch said. “It just makes ecological sense to try these kinds of things.”


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Ohio State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Ohio State University. "Potential Solutions For Gulf Of Mexico’s “Dead Zone” Explored." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 June 1998. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/06/980619073227.htm>.
Ohio State University. (1998, June 19). Potential Solutions For Gulf Of Mexico’s “Dead Zone” Explored. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/06/980619073227.htm
Ohio State University. "Potential Solutions For Gulf Of Mexico’s “Dead Zone” Explored." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1998/06/980619073227.htm (accessed October 20, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Monday, October 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Powerful Hurricane Gonzalo Heads to Bermuda

Raw: Powerful Hurricane Gonzalo Heads to Bermuda

AP (Oct. 17, 2014) Hurricane Gonzalo pounded Bermuda with wind and heavy surf on Friday, bearing down on the tiny British territory as a powerful Category 3 storm that could raise coastal seas as much as 10 feet. (Oct. 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
So, Kangaroos Didn't Always Hop

So, Kangaroos Didn't Always Hop

Newsy (Oct. 16, 2014) Researchers believe an extinct kangaroo species weighed 500 pounds or more and couldn't hop. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Hurricane Gonzalo Is A Category 4 And Heading To Bermuda

Hurricane Gonzalo Is A Category 4 And Heading To Bermuda

Newsy (Oct. 16, 2014) Powerful hurricane could hit Bermuda this weekend, and even if it misses it will likely do some damage. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Largest Volcano In Centuries Is Spewing Toxic Gas

The Largest Volcano In Centuries Is Spewing Toxic Gas

Newsy (Oct. 16, 2014) One of the largest volcanic eruptions in centuries is occurring on Iceland. The volcano Bardarbunga is producing high levels of sulfur dioxide. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins