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 Preservation of floodplains is flood protection
27.09.2017 | Technische Universität München

nachricht Conservationists are sounding the alarm: parrots much more threatened than assumed
15.09.2017 | Justus-Liebig-Universität Gießen

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: Neutron star merger directly observed for the first time

University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event

On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...

Im Focus: Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.

Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

Im Focus: Shrinking the proton again!

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.

It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

Climate Engineering Conference 2017 Opens in Berlin

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Terahertz spectroscopy goes nano

20.10.2017 | Information Technology

Strange but true: Turning a material upside down can sometimes make it softer

20.10.2017 | Materials Sciences

NRL clarifies valley polarization for electronic and optoelectronic technologies

20.10.2017 | Interdisciplinary Research

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>