In the midst of hurricane season, and at the end of our ecology unit, this seemed like an appropriate time to share this interesting tidbit: Hurricane Dolly may have shrunk Gulf ‘dead zone.’
NOTE: I misspoke the other day in class when I said it was Hurricane Dean. My bad!
Having just witnessed the utter devastation of Hurricane Katrina, and more recently, Hurricanes Gustav and Ike, one would think that hurricanes were one of the worst natural disasters that could be visited upon the Earth. And personally, I think they are. However, it is important to remember that we are not its only inhabitants, and that the life in the sea was here long before we ever imagined Homo sapiens populating the planet. Why is this worth discussing, though?
The ‘dead zone’ in the Gulf of Mexico is a large, hypoxic region of the Gulf that cannot support life. This critically important marine ecosystem developed over a period of years because of large quantities of fertilizer runoff (eutrophication, anyone?) from the Mississippi River, whose mouth opens into the Gulf at the delta. The layer of freshwater that flows into the saline Gulf waters floats atop the saline Gulf and prevents oxygen from being able to dissolve into deeper levels of the Gulf there.
You’re thinking, but Ferg, we live so far inland, why does this matter to us up here in the Metroplex?
Which is why I bring this post to you: why does it matter to us? Better yet, why should we be concerned? What biological side effects on the larger biosphere does the ‘dead zone’ have? What effects does this have on aquatic food chains? What economic and social side effects might the existence of the dead zone generate?