Dr. Humphrey is absolutely right to point out the global nature of
the dead zone problem. Near shore areas are affected wherever
there is high nutrient runoff. The following link gets at this in
With that said, the clear links between corn acreage and the areal
extent of the Gulf of Mexico dead zone do raise serious questions
about the wisdom of farm and, increasingly, energy policies that
rely upon mass subsidization and price supports for traditional
row crops. This may have been sent out before, but here's the link
to a recent article in the Proceedings of the Natural Academy of
Sciences that discusses the Gulf dead zone and farm policies.
On Wed Jul 16 13:01:21 EDT 2008, "Humphrey,Stephen R"
<[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> Folks: Just to expand the subject a bit, keep in mind that more
> than 200 such dead zones are recognized globally. While the
> particular causes in the Gulf of Mexico case are probably
> correctly identified, there is a globally coherent story
> involving the practices of high-density civilization, not
> properly told in the article. The story of the great Mayan
> civilization comes to mind.
> Dr. Stephen R. Humphrey, Director of Academic Programs,
> School of Natural Resources and Environment,
> Box 116455, 103 Black Hall, University of Florida
> Gainesville, FL 32611-6455 USA
> Tel. 352-392-9230, Fax 352-392-9748
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Bioenergy and Sustainable Technology Society
> [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Fricker, Kyle J
> Sent: Wednesday, July 16, 2008 12:19 PM
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: Gulf of Mexico "dead zone" to hit record size: NOAA
> BEST -
> Gulf of Mexico "dead zone" to hit record size: NOAA Tue Jul 15,
> 2008 9:19pm BST
> By Chris Baltimore
> HOUSTON (Reuters) - The Gulf of Mexico's "dead zone" -- a swath
> of algae-laden water with oxygen levels low enough to choke out
> marine life -- will likely reach record size this year, and the
> main culprits are rising ethanol use and massive Midwest
> flooding, scientists said on Tuesday.
> The dead zone, which recurs each year off the Texas and Louisiana
> coasts, could stretch to more than 8,800 square miles
> this year -- about the size of New Jersey -- compared with 6,662
> square miles in 2006 and nearly double the annual average since
> 1990 of 4,800 square miles.
> Scientists from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric
> Administration, Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium and
> Louisiana State University said the algae that lowers oxygen
> levels in the dead zone is being fed by farm use of fertilizers
> like nitrogen and phosphorus.
> For fishermen who look to the Gulf of Mexico for crabs, shrimp,
> crawfish and other seafood, the growing dead zone means they must
> venture farther out into the gulf's waters to find their catch.
> The record dead zone is due to soaring use of ethanol in U.S.
> motor gasoline supplies and by massive flooding in the Midwest
> earlier this year, scientists said.
> "We're planting an awful lot of corn and soybeans," said Eugene
> Turner, a scientist at Louisiana State University. "It rinses off
> easily when there is a rain."
> One-third of this year's U.S. corn crop, or 4 billion bushels,
> will go to make the alternate fuel ethanol, the U.S. government
> has projected, compared to 3 billion bushels of the 2007 crop.
> The dead zone starts in Midwestern corn country when farmers
> fertilize their fields with nitrogen. The fertilizer run-off
> flows down the Mississippi River into the Gulf of Mexico, making
> algae bloom on the surface and cutting oxygen to creatures that
> live on the bottom.
> Substances in this runoff include the nutrients nitrogen and
> phosphorus, which can stimulate the growth of algae. These algae
> settle and decay in the bottom waters of the Gulf, and the
> bacteria that decompose them gobble up oxygen faster than it can
> be replenished from the surface, which means lower levels of
> dissolved oxygen in the water.
> U.S. scientists estimate that a record 83,000 tons of phosphorus
> seeped into the Gulf of Mexico from April through June, up to 85
> percent above normal seasonal levels.
> "Excess nutrients from the Mississippi River watershed during the
> spring are the primary human-influenced factor behind the
> expansion of the dead zone," said Rob Magnien, director of the
> NOAA Center for Sponsored Coastal Ocean Research.
> To reverse the pattern, U.S. farmers must plant more perennial
> crops that trap rainwater and keep it from running into the Gulf
> of Mexico, Turner said.
> And eventually, scientists need to invent new breeds of perennial
> corn plants that can remain in the soil from one planting season
> to the next, avoiding the need to strip fields bare and leave
> them susceptible to flooding, he said.
> (Reporting by Chris Baltimore, editing by Anthony Boadle)
> Kyle J. Fricker
> Chemical Engineering
> University of Florida
Jason M. Evans, Ph.D.
Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation
University of Florida
(352) 846-0148 - office
(352) 328-1199 - cell
BioEnergy and Sustainable Technology Society