Friday, October 20, 2006

Dead Zones, Worldwide: More Now Than Ever Before

Long Island Sound has had its summertime dead zone, in the western end of the Sound, for at least two decades. It was certainly not the first estuary or coastal area to develop such a phenomenon, but it wasn’t the last either. Two years ago the United Nations Environment Program counted 146 worldwide; there are now about 200.

Gristmill had it today, and here’s an AP story about it.

The UNEP press release is here. It says:

the full list of new or newly-registered sites would be available in early 2007

by which I infer that some of the 64 new locations might have been dead zones for a while and have just recently been documented while others are in fact new since 2004. From the press release:

De-oxygenated zones are areas where algal blooms, triggered by nutrients from sources including fertilizer run off, sewage, animal wastes and atmospheric deposition from the burning of fossil fuels, can remove oxygen from the water.

The low levels of oxygen in the water make it difficult for fish, oysters and other marine creatures to survive as well as important habitats such as sea grass beds.

Experts claim that the number and size of deoxygenated areas is on the rise with the total number detected rising every decade since the 1970s. They are warning that these areas are fast becoming major threats to fish stocks and thus to the people who depend upon fisheries for food and livelihoods.


Blogger Sam said...

Oh I agree, but some of those "dead zones" have existed for centuries, some now being discovered for the first time. Yes, there are some new ones and their sizes seem to be expanding. But classical ones like those off the Mississippi, western LI Sound, the upper Naragansett, the one off Oregon due to upwelling, and a strange "blackwater" zone off Gold Coast Florida have been there for eons. Our scientists are just doing a better job of researching them.

I'd like to say a word about ocean research, though. During the last decade US government funds for monitoring and analyzing these dead zones have been severely depleted. It is almost a crime. Even the satelite programs like SEA-WIFS have been discontinued, or only exist on some grad student's computer.

To day the least, it is reassuring that some private US funds and much more international funding is making the patch in the huge US funding shortfall, which is tens of millions of dollars and involves approximately 148 university research vessels in the US. That list is over 7 years old but you might be surprised how many university research vessels there are in this country. /Sam

8:05 PM  

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