Gulf Of Mexico Hypoxia Essay

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Every year starting around May, sometimes as early as February, an enormous swath of the Gulf of Mexico loses a great amount of oxygen, making some areas inhospitable to marine life. These oxygen-depleted conditions stay until September, sometimes even October. This annual occurrence is referred to as the Gulf of Mexico hypoxia or “dead zone.” Hypoxic conditions in the Gulf of Mexico are defined when levels of dissolved oxygen drop bellows 2mg/L (Hypoxia In the Northern Gulf of Mexico 2014). While dead zones occur naturally throughout the world, the hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico is greatly exacerbated by human actions. These hypoxic and sometimes even anoxic conditions drive away marine life and can even kill those that are sessile or linger too long and find themselves unable to escape.
Although the size of this particular dead zone can vary greatly from year-to-year depending on weather conditions like droughts and hurricanes, this area has grown in size from 9,774 square kilometers in 1985 when it was first measured to its current largest area of 22,000 square kilometers in 2002. 1988 experienced the smallest dead zone with only 40 square kilometers affected by low oxygen levels. Table 1 lists the year to year size of the dead zone. In 2013, the dead zone was approximately 15,000 square kilometers, roughly the size of Connecticut (Main 2013). Figure 1 depicts the area of the Gulf of Mexico that was affected by hypoxia in 2013.
The Gulf of Mexico dead zone is caused by four main factors: nutrient loading of the Mississippi River, eutrophication, decomposition of organic material by bacteria on the ocean floor and depletion of oxygen due to stratification (Hypoxia In the Northern Gulf of Mexico 2014). These four factors combined...

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...lly and consciously (SeaWeb 2008).
Overall, the Gulf of Mexico dead zone is an area that should be taken very seriously. This is a part of the ocean that is drastically and undeniably affected directly by human activities. The economies surrounding the Gulf are very dependent on the resources they receive from it and would be devastated if economically-important species began dying off due to lack of oxygen. Although the dead zone varies in size from year to year, the area has increase exponentially ever since the birth of intensive farming practices involving nutrient-rich fertilizers. Thankfully, many efforts have been put forth to monitor and manage the dead zone. Revised farming practices along with greater environmental education for the general population with hopefully lead to a reduced risk of hypoxic conditions causing excess economic or ecological damage.
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