"Hypoxia zone" in Gulf of Mexico significantly smaller than scientists predicted
The hypoxia zone, or 'dead zone' as it's sometimes called, in the Gulf of Mexico is 65 percent square miles smaller than originally predicted, according to a new report from the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium and Louisiana State University.
"This was surprisingly small given the forecast to be among the largest ever and the expanse of the dead zone earlier this summer," said Dr. Nancy Rabalais, one of the scientists who made the earlier prediction.
The hypoxia zone is an area of ocean where oxygen levels have been depleted by an overgrowth and decay of algae. Scientists alleged farmers in the Mississippi River watershed and their crop farming produced nitrogen and phosphorus run-off which contributed to the overgrowth of algae. However, the hypoxia zone was smaller this year due, in part, to decreased water flow to the Gulf in July. The zone has fluctuated greatly in size over the last 25 years that scientists have measured it; much also depends on nature's weather patterns--such as hurricanes.
"What this shows us is that Mother Nature has as much to do with the size of the hypoxic zone as anything, but Iowa farmers are doing their part to use soil and water conservation measures to reduce nitrates and phosphorus run-off. We've already seen a 21 percent decline in nitrogen delivery to the Gulf. That's why Iowa Farm Bureau nominated the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship and Iowa Farm Service Agency for the Environmental Protection Agency's Gulf Guardian Award last year for its Iowa Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program," said Iowa Farm Bureau Federation Environmental Policy Advisor Rick Robinson. "We still have more work to do, but the key thing is--farmers are taking action to reduce runoff. While we cannot control Mother Nature, we can target and coordinate federal and state conservation matching funds--it's a continuous effort," said Robinson.
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