Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Into the dead zone: Galveston researcher examines loss of marine life

07.05.2004


A "dead zone," like the Stephen King novel of the same name, is a place where life can end. The horror meister probably wasn’t thinking about fish.



Dead zones are areas of the ocean where marine life - especially large quantities of fish - mysteriously die and where future marine life may never have a chance.

One well-known dead zone is near the Mississippi River delta area, where the nearby Sabine and Atchafalaya Rivers flow into southern Louisiana. Texas A&M University at Galveston researcher Antonietta Quigg is on a quest trying to learn why this dead zone is occurring and what is causing it - and the lurking suspicion, she says, is a combination of biological, chemical and physical interactions that may or may not be triggered by fertilizer runoffs from the Mississippi is the culprit.


Her work is part of two three-year studies funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

"Levels of nitrogen in Gulf waters are especially high in the spring and summer, when fertilizers are most frequently used," Quigg explains. "We still have a lot of work to do, but it looks like fertilizer runoffs remain the culprit in helping to create this large dead zone."

Many dead zones are caused by farm fertilizers and other chemicals, and their runoff into rivers creates a large amount of plankton, which in turn depletes oxygen as it sinks down into the water. Without sufficient oxygen, marine life on and close to sediment dies.

The Mississippi is the largest river in the U.S., draining 40 percent of the land area of the country. It also accounts for almost 90 percent of the freshwater runoff into the Gulf of Mexico.

Where the Mississippi empties into the Gulf Coast is the start of the dead zone Quigg is studying - and areas where high concentrations of nitrogen, phosphorous and other substances commonly used in fertilizers are being found.

Quigg will closely examine bacteria found in the area to see if the suspected agents found in fertilizers are currently there. Spring is peak fertilizing time for many farmers and ranchers all along the Mississippi River, meaning the suspected runoff of these chemicals into the Gulf Coast area will be reaching a climax in the weeks ahead.

"We will look at the nutrients in the water in the dead zone area, look at the water color and examine the bacterial communities," she says.

"We want to determine what specific biological activities are going on there - and their interactions with the chemical and physical environment. Whatever is happening is causing a large amount of marine life to die."

Studies by the United Nations Environment Program show that the number of dead zones in the world’s oceans has increased steadily in the past 25 years, and there are now about 150 dead zones worldwide.

Because it has created a quick-acting dead zone, the Mississippi River delta area has become one of the most famous dead zones in the world, but other recent ones have occurred in South American, Japan, China and Australia, the United Nations report says.

Dead zones range in size from just a few square miles to more than 45,000 square miles, and the loss of fish and other marine life can be immense.

"Dead zones seem to have one thing in common, and it’s that they’re getting bigger," says Quigg. "In our study, we hope to find some definitive answers on what is causing the dead zone in the Mississippi River delta area."


Additional Contact: Antonietta Quigg at 409-740-4990.

Keith Randall | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.tamu.edu/

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht International network connects experimental research in European waters
21.03.2017 | Leibniz-Institut für Gewässerökologie und Binnenfischerei (IGB)

nachricht World Water Day 2017: It doesn’t Always Have to Be Drinking Water – Using Wastewater as a Resource
17.03.2017 | ISOE - Institut für sozial-ökologische Forschung

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

Im Focus: Researchers Imitate Molecular Crowding in Cells

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Argon is not the 'dope' for metallic hydrogen

24.03.2017 | Materials Sciences

Astronomers find unexpected, dust-obscured star formation in distant galaxy

24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Gravitational wave kicks monster black hole out of galactic core

24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>