Did you know that the Gulf of Mexico is home to the largest zone of hypoxia (also known as a ‘dead zone’) in the Western Hemisphere? A hypoxic zone is an area of the ocean that lacks sufficient oxygen levels. It is caused by excess nitrogen loads that allow for rapid growth of plankton and algae populations. When these organisims die and decay, they rob the water of oxygen, leading to the deaths of fish, crabs and other marine life that need sufficient oxygen to survive. The size of the Gulf’s hypoxic zone varies, but at its peak ranges from the mouth of the Mississippi westward to the coast of Texas, covering an area of 7,000 or more square miles. That’s roughly the size of New Jersey!
Viewer Tip: Two-thirds of the excess nitrogen load in the Gulf is attributed to the use of fertilizers and manure on agricultural lands surrounding the Mississippi River. Be careful when using fertilizers on agricultural land or in your yard. Always make sure there is no rain in the forecast before you apply fertilizer. Excess water will run off the land, carrying extra fertilzier with it, eventually reaching the the Mississippi River and the Gulf. Planting a buffer of vegetation on the edge of your property can help to prevent excess nitrogen from running off your property.