Ocean Dead Zones by LeRoy French, NAUI A50
By now we are all fairly familiar with the term “Global Warming.” Simply stated, it means our earth is getting warmer. The affects of global warming can be demonstrated in
many ways. In particular it has a tremendous impact on the ocean. Scientists believe that it could be a major cause of “Dead Zones.”
Dead Zones are areas in the oceans that have been literally starved of oxygen and as a result cannot support life. These zones dramatically increased by one-third in just two years as global temperatures rise with climate change.
These lifeless zones have grown from 44 areas reported in 1995 to more than 400. Some of the oxygen starved areas extend over 27,000 square miles (70,000 square km), about the size of the Republic of Ireland. Besides climate change, these zones are also created by fertilizers, sewage, and other pollutants. The areas of most concern are in the Eastern Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and recently creeping into the Caribbean basin.
In easy to understand terminology, here is how these areas become starved of oxygen. Anytime you have a form of pollution entering the ocean e.g., sewage etc. it nourishes
algae. The damage is then caused by explosive blooms of tiny plants, known as phytoplankton, which die and sink to the bottom. They are eventually eaten up by bacteria, which uses up all the oxygen. These areas are known as “oxygen minimum” zones and they create damaging consequences to the marine ecosystem because fish,
squid, and crustaceans cannot survive in them. In past years, these zones were mostly located in the open ocean in deep water, but scientific studies are showing a huge increase in coastal and shallow areas becoming low on oxygen.
This may sound like a problem that is completely unsolvable by the normal individual. NOT TRUE! The best solution is to reduce fossil-fuel emissions over the next few generations, which will limit ongoing ocean oxygen depletion and ocean acidification. The following is a fact everybody should be aware of:
“The ocean and the atmosphere are locked in an intimate embrace, as one changes, so must the other. Air and sea exchange masses of energy and chemicals, including the well-known greenhouse gases. These influence the behaviour of the atmosphere and ocean, which in turn determine global climate and weather patterns.” We all know that life on this planet is dependent on our oceans. These problems such as “Dead Zones” are created by human impact. If we created it, we should be able to fix it!