Mitigation Strategies and Solutions
Michelle A. Freeman
Axia College of University of Phoenix
Water Resources and Ocean Sustainability: The Dead Zone
The earth’s water resources are inexhaustible. Or at least a majority of the global population believes the ocean will always produce food, provide a living for a portion of the population, and will remain a pristine getaway for vacationers. However, dead zones, a major threat to the health of all bodies of water in the world, are a problem that the populations of the world must face. Entire aquatic ecosystems and habitats are threatened by this growing problem. While global warming is now a possible suspect in causing dead zones, water run-off flowing down river from farms using nitrogen rich fertilizers are causing dead zones in global water resources. What are Dead Zones?
Journalist Cheryl Lyn Dybus, a specialist in marine sciences simply defines dead zones as, “coastal waters too low in oxygen to sustain life” (Dybus, 2005). Stanford University researchers in a 2005 study state that when water drains into waterways from nitrogen enriched fertilizer treated farmland either during heavy rains or flooding, entering into larger bodies of water, “sudden explosions of marine algae are triggered, capable of disrupting ocean ecosystems and producing dead zones” (Environment, 2005). Problem Factors: Living and Non-living
Nature and the ocean naturally produce nutrients from the bottom of the ocean to the surface. This regular cycle causes the production of algae blooms or phytoplankton, food for other aquatic life. Through the introduction of nitrogen, phosphorous, and emissions released from human use of fossil fuels into the planet’s water systems, a toxic overproduction of phytoplankton is produced, depleting life-giving oxygen from the water. This lack of oxygen, or hypoxia, causes larger organisms to die. These areas then become “dead zones” (Environment, 2005). Human Impacts: Positive or Negative
Dead zones are a growing cause for global concern. Currently there are 405 identifiable dead zones along coastlines around the world. According to Scientific American writer Barbara Juncosa, scientists now view current changes caused by global warming is yet another cause of dead zones, but the proximity of these particular dead zones to coastlines, in some cases less than a “hit home-run” from the shore, has, “startled researcher” (Juncosa, 2008). The identifiable negative human impacts caused by these, “coastal wastelands” are the loss of biodiversity through the certain death of oxygen-deprived fish and other aquatic life and the threat to the world-wide commercial fishing industry.
Current Sustainability Strategies and Solutions
The call to global action as been sounded with several action plans now in place to address dead zones. The Gulf of Mexico and the Chesapeake Bay contain two of the largest dead zones in the world (Dybas, 2005). The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Action Plan for Reducing, Mitigating, and Controlling Hypoxia in the Northern Gulf of Mexico according to Dybas, “calls for the reduction of the Gulf’s dead zone by limiting discharges of nitrogen and other nutrients to the gulf” (Dybas, 2005). The toxic fertilizer run-off into the gulf is generated from 31 states that drain into the Mississippi River. While this action plan is well-intentioned; however, the goal of accomplishment set for 2015 is unrealistic for magnitude and breath of states and issues to be addressed. The second dead zone action plan to be critiqued is the Chesapeake 2000 Agreement (C2K) (Chesapeake Bay Foundation, 2003). This agreement signed by Maryland, Washington D.C. and Virginia has set 2010 is the targeted year for the bay’s, “water quality to be restored, to preserve 20% of the region’s land and to provide environmental education to all students in the watershed (Chesapeake Bay Foundation, 2003)....
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Center for Sponsored Coastal Ocean Research. (2008). Hypoxia & nutrient pollution. Retrieved October 5, 2008, from http://www.cop.noaa.gov/stressors/pollution/welcome.html
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