Ocean Dead Zones Double Every 10 Years

NY Times reports

"In a study to be published Friday in the journal Science, researchers say the number of marine "dead zones" around the world has doubled about every 10 years since the 1960s. At the same time, the zones along many coastlines have been growing in size and intensity. About 400 coastal areas now have periodically or permanently oxygen-starved bottom waters. Combined, they constitute an area larger than the state of Oregon.

"What's happened in the last 40, 50 years is that human activity has made the water quality conditions worse," Robert J. Diaz, the study's lead author and a professor at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science at the College of William and Mary, said in an interview. "Dead zones tend to occur in areas that are historically prime fishing grounds."

While the size of dead zones is small relative to the total surface of the earth covered by oceans, scientists say they represent a significant portion of the ocean waters that support commercial fish and shellfish species.

Low oxygen levels wipe out fish and crustaceans from bottom waters in places like the Gulf of Mexico, the Chesapeake Bay and the Baltic Sea on a seasonal basis, leaving little life other than microbes to survive. In recent years, dead zones have grown in places like coastal China and the Kattegat Sea, where the Norway lobster fishery collapsed. They have also cropped up unexpectedly in pockets off the coast of South Carolina and the Pacific Northwest.

This summer, the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico covers a swath of ocean nearly the size of Massachusetts. It has more than doubled in size in the last 20 years."

Addendum: The Times Online reports the story with this apocalyptic title:
Fertilisers kill all ocean life in spread of 'dead zones'


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This is the kind of news that makes you wonder why humans are considered an intelligent species. If we overpopulate, decimate our ecosystem, and get decimated ourselves as a result, exactly how does that show we are more intelligent than any other animal species that has done the same thing?

It´s for reasons like this that I do my searches with www.treehoo.com, the green search engine that plants trees for most of the profit. It´s free, it´s powered by Google and it´s really good for the planet. What more can you ask of your search engine?

Can the photosynthetic plankton be conscientiously harvested before it decays to produce bio-fuel? The up side would be saving the ocean. The down side would be another source of fuel to support excess consumption and further contributing to the CO2 problem.

By T Koehnlein (not verified) on 15 Aug 2008 #permalink

I think you answered your own question. If pump CO2 into the phytoplankton (via creating blooms), then harvest and burn the phytoplankton it kind of defeats the purpose.

This is the kind of news that makes you wonder why humans are considered an intelligent species.

As any amateur psychologist, sociologist, and pundit will tell you: individually we can act with tremendous intelligence, but as a group we tend towards the lowest common denominator. As they say on Despair.com; Meetings: because one of us is not as dumb as all of us.

Diaz' institution, VIMS, has a googlemap...

And boy is it, well, not too informative. Must have had the grad student put it up. Just location, no information about when the zones appear, whthert they are they seasonal, what is their size, if in a fishing ground, what is caught, and so forth. As I lecture to the Art History students - maps, they make everything better, unless the map is poor then it detracts.

By Onkel Bob (not verified) on 15 Aug 2008 #permalink

As any amateur psychologist, sociologist, and pundit will tell you: individually we can act with tremendous intelligence, but as a group we tend towards the lowest common denominator.

Onkel, you have stated what I have noticed for a long time about this country.

I had a Norwegian friend say this about US politics - "it [democracy] not going to work because your country is too big."

I've thought a lot about that seemingly simple statement.

Now you have hit the nail on the head: we are going to try to operate an economic superpower as a democracy from the level of the lowest common denominator of 230 million people.

I think the only person who really leverages this truth is probably Karl Rove. He consistently gets the LCD to work in his favor. Racism, hate, hyper-nationalism, militarism, all the LCD faves - he is the one that actually understands how to leverage all that stuff. He is the one that understands that for all the smart individuals in America, we are still pretty dumb at the collective level.

I don't want to take away all the credit to K. Rove, he is smart, I'll give you that, but what has made him even more influential is his friends, those in dept and people who he can use to extort.
Still waiting for the frog march from the WH.

Dead zones are reversible. We have to reduce sewage and industrial emissions of nitrogen into the water now! If not we all will be eating jelly fish soup pretty soon.