Oct. 5, 2006 A new scientific review of the Gulf of Mexico's "Dead Zone" could have far-ranging implications for farming over millions of acres of the Midwest and for fertilizer sales, according to an article scheduled for the Oct. 2 issue of Chemical & Engineering News, the ACS' weekly newsmagazine.
The Dead Zone is a vast expanse of water off the Gulf's northern shore that becomes depleted in oxygen from spring to early autumn each year.
C&EN senior editor Cheryl Hogue explains that oxygen depletion creates a biological dead zone, where fish and other marine creatures cannot survive. The Dead Zone has been growing in size since the 1980s. In recent years it has involved an area larger than the state of Connecticut.
Excessive amounts of plant nutrients - primarily nitrate fertilizer that runs off agricultural land into the Mississippi River - causes the zone by fostering blooms of phytoplankton that die and decay in a process that removes dissolved oxygen from the Gulf waters.
The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency's Science Advisory Board (SAB) just began the review, which will focus on the causes and other technical issues. SAB's findings may figure heavily in the recommendations of a combined federal and state task force that is revising a 2001 action plan to reduce and control oxygen depletion in the Gulf, Hogue reports.
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