I had not yet read the New York Times yesterday when I saw this post, but its timeliness was hammered home to me when I saw a headline from page 1, Section F (Science Times):
"A 'DEAD ZONE' GROWS IN A VAST EXPANSE OF THE GULF OF MEXICO"
Here are a few quotes from the article by Carol Kaesuk Yoon:
"It can stretch for 7,000 square miles off the coast of Louisiana, a vast expanse of ocean devoid of the regoin's usual rich bounty of fish and shrimp, its bottom littered with the remains of crabs and worms unable to flee its suffocating grasp. This is the Gulf of Mexico's "dead zone," which last summar reached the size of the state of New Jersey.
. . .
"The trouble with the dead zone is that it lacks oxygen, scientists, say, apparently because of pollution in the form of excess nutrients flowing into the Gulf from the Mississippi River. Animals in this smothering layer of water near the bottom of the sea must flee or perish.
. . .
"... the problem of rising nutrient loads and accompanying decreases in oxygen, known as hypoxia, is becoming ever more common in the coastal waters of the United States. "Hypoxia in the Gulf is a dramatic case," said Dr. Don Scavia, director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Coastal Ocean Program and overseer of the ongoing scientific assessment, "but it's symptomatic of what's happening coastally." More than half of the estuaries in the country experience oxygen depletion during the summer, he said, and a third experience a complete loss of oxygen.
. . .
"The scientists trace the trouble to high levels of nutrients, in particular NITROGEN, that flow out of the Mississippi and into the Gulf."
The article notes the relationship between the "dead zones" and the amount of runoff from cities and farms in the river watersheds which reaches estuaries. During drought (low runoff), they found the hypoxic zones almost completely absent. During floods, the "dead zones" grow huge. They're trying to softpedal the connection to farm fertilizers, because "[the farmer]'s the one that's [sic] going to suffer." I think those coastal areas are already suffering.
You have only to take a look at the size of the Mississippi watershed alone (a nice picture of it on page F6: it covers nearly 1/3 the area of the contiguous U.S.A.), which drains the central farming regions of this country. If the genetically engineered nitrogen fixing bacterium Jean describes is released for widespread use, we'll be seeing articles about the few "live zones" left, instead of the enormous "dead zone" we will have surrounded ourselves with.
Please read the article, and if you have ideas, please share them with us at this site.
JEAN -- If you see this post, I would definitely like to know if you have forwarded yours to any of the news services, or in what form.
THANKS TO ALL!!!!