Amidst BP Drilling Disaster, 2010 Dead Zone Predicted to be Size of New Jersey

It just seems that the Gulf can’t catch a break. Coastal Louisiana is at the epicenter of three human-caused environmental disasters: the BP deepwater drilling disaster, coastal wetland destruction, and the annual Dead Zone. The Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium (LUMCON) just released their prediction of the third part of the Gulf destruction trifecta, and the predictions aren’t good. According to a prediction released yesterday, based on May nitrogen pollution loading in the Mississippi River, the Dead Zone (or by its more scientific name, the hypoxic zone) will be approximately 7,776 mi2, or about the size of New Jersey. If these predictions come to pass, the 2010 Dead Zone will be the 5th largest ever measured since 1985, when they began measuring the Zone.Now enter the oil. Researchers are not clear what impact the oil will have on the Dead Zone. According to the LUMCON report, “the oil spill could enhance the size of the hypoxic zone through the microbial breakdown of oil, which consumes oxygen, but the oil could also limit the growth of the hypoxia-fueling algae because of its toxicity, or because a surface sheen reflects light.” Bad news all around. As the release understatedly says, “It is clear, however that the combination of the hypoxic zone and the oil spill is not good for local fisheries.” Go here for the LUMCON report.

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