Gulf of Mexico dead zone
Diaz and Rosenberg (2008), define dead zones as low oxygen areas (hypoxic) found around oceans. The specific regions that they are found are near inhabited coastlines where aquatic life is prominent. The Gulf of Mexico dead zone is an area that would be analysed in this paper and will encompass the threat it poses to the environment, root cause, proposed solutions, and consequences if unchecked. The relevance of the issue to values of the university will then be brought out in through a personal statement.
The Gulf of Mexico is found at the mouth of Mississippi river covering approximately 7000 miles. The coverage of the gulf ranges between the inner and mid-continental shelf of the northern Gulf of Mexico. From the mouth of the Mississippi delta it reaches westwards up to the Northern coast of Texas. The dead zone at the Mexican Gulf is caused by nutrient fortification—Phosphorous and Nitrogen—from the Mississippi river. The excess nutrients come from farming states where fertilizer run off, sewage, soil erosion, and animal waste find their way to the river (Withgog & Brenan, 2008).
The increased nutrient in the region results to unlimited algae growth; hence algae bloom. The threat of algae bloom is disruption of the ecosystem and depletion of oxygen (Diaz & Rosenberg, 2008). The excess algae also poses a threat in decreasing the number of fishes in the area where they would be overfed and excess nutrients not absorbed by plants. The other threat is production of HAB (Harmful Algae Bloom) where natural toxins can be produced. Toxins cause damage of organisms with shellfish poisoning attributed to the occurrence. Furthermore, overloading of nutrients is referred to as eutrophication and has a threat of reducing biodiversity since the environment supports fewer organisms. This is a major threat as the Gulf of Mexico is a big supplier of sea food. “The Gulf supplies 72% of US shrimp, 66% harvested oysters, and 16% commercial fish” (Withgog & Brenan, 2008, p. 34).
Root cause of problem
The root cause of the problem is the excess nutrients from farm areas that find their way into river Mississippi. The nutrients that end in the gulf result in limitless algae growth. The increased chemical nutrients in the water referred to as eutrophication, which leads to increased density of certain types of phytoplankton, this is known as alga bloom (Withgog & Brennan, 2008). Algae produce oxygen during the day while during the night they undergo cellular respiration thus depleting off the oxygen available in water. After the death of the alga bloom, more oxygen is used up in the decomposition of their remains. Depletion of oxygen causes a hypoxic condition which is not conducive for aquatic species. Hazardous algae bloom from eutrophication can also result in toxins which cause destruction and death of organisms (Withgog & Brennan, 2008)
Preventing excess nutrients from reaching the Gulf are the key in curtailing the problem and include measures such as:
Limiting runoff from agricultural land. Run-offs result when applied fertilizers are washed downstream by water during rain seasons. Therefore, runoffs can be limited by crop rotation, cross planting, and planting trees and cover crops.
Preventing animals from waterways. Animals through their defecations enable excess nutrients to find their way to the river and hence the Gulf.
Government to fund projects aimed at restoring the dead zone through filtering river water before joining the Gulf.
Government setting up legislations and policies that force farmers to practice conservative farming practices which do not affect the ecosystem. Conservative farming practices include cross planting and inclusion of cover crops while farming.
Sewage monitoring and treatment combined with proper discharge of industrial effluents along the Mississippi river.
Consequence of the issue if unchecked
The dead zone at the Gulf of Mexico is an environmental issue that should be checked as soon as possible. The consequences are numerous and range from disruption of economic livelihood of a nation and people to extinction of wildlife. In the area, less oxygen and toxins result in death and migration of aquatic wildlife which makes fishermen harvest less fish. The less fish harvested contributes to less capital both for themselves and the nation. Furthermore, this issue can cause certain organisms to become extinct.
Relation of the issue to university values
The Gulf of Mexico issues relates with the value of respect at our university. At our university respect toward unity, harmonious living, and diversity enables us to also strive to protect the diversity in the dead zone region which is under threat because of oxygen depletion. Furthermore, responsible stewardship value enables us to use our resources conservatively taking care that it does not harm our neighbours. For instance, it is responsible stewardship to monitor the nutrients that find themselves in the Mississippi river, which contributes to the dead zone.
Diaz, R.J., & Rosenberg, R. (2008). Spreading Dead Zones and Consequences for Marine Ecosystems. Science, 321 (589). Pp. 926-929. DOI: 10.1126/science.1156401
Withgog, J., & Brennan, S.R. (2008). Environment: the science behind the stories. New York: Pearson Benjamin Cummings. Pp. 7+