When you hear the word “dead zone” you probably have a flash back of that moment when you were in deep conversation with your girlfriend and she kept saying “can you hear me now”? That is a dead zone most of us are familiar with. There is a much more serious dead zone than having no bars on your cell phone, dead zones in our oceans.
Dead zones in our oceans and seas are often referred to as “hypoxic” areas.
They occur when there are low levels of oxygen in the water. Excess nutrient pollution from fertilizers, cleaning supplies and other toxic items find their way into our oceans and lakes causing these dead zones to occur. Farms that use nitrates and phosphates to grow their crops have a huge impact on dead zones. Runoff from these farms and other water supplies makes its way to large bodies of water like the Gulf of Mexico and cause large dead zones to occur. When nitrates, phosphates and other nutrients saturate a body of water animal life suffocates and dies and any mobile animals leave the area. One of the largest dead zones in the world is located in the Gulf of Mexico. Other areas can be found off the coast of Oregon, in the Chesapeake Bay and Lake Erie.
This Ocean News video from National Ocean Service offers a quick exploration of a dead zone. While the video refers to 2015, this phenomena exists -and persists- each year as a result of our consumer culture.
We may not be able to fix our cell phone dead zones but we can make an impact on our ocean dead zones.
Simple but effective efforts you can make:
Starting your own compost pile. This will help reduce runoff from urban homes that contribute to dead zones. You can also leave grass clippings on a lawn so that nutrients can be recycled. Many states make composting mandatory which helps reduce the amount of waste that enters the garbage cycle, which is another added benefit.
Use non-toxic cleaning supplies. Cleaning supplies enter the wastewater system and even when treated not every chemical is removed. The water that comes back may still have those cleaning supplies present and makes it way out into our shorelines, causing dead zones to occur. Kinder clean supplies are now available at big box stores, health food stores and online, making this an easy way to make a huge impact. Explore an assortment of posts on cleaning products and choices.
Choose wiser with fruits, veggies and meats. Since farming is one of the major contributors to dead zones, being aware of what type of farming helps decrease dead zones is essential. When farmers utilize no till farming they can conserve up to 2 inches of water in cropland soil. This reduces the need for irrigation and runoff, which helps decrease dead zones dramatically. Utilizing this type of farming also conserves the topsoil, which prevents nitrogen and phosphorus from entering the marine life arena. (This post is one in our series of exploring our choices and impact in the world of Meat & Veggies. )
Decreasing nutrient runoff from our nations farms and doing our own part to control urban runoff from household products can have an enormously positive impact on our dead zones. Are you ready to do your part? Can you hear me now?
Our choices and what we choose to support and purchase is a direct link to that ecosystem chain.
We are mesmerized by this topic -- so few know about dead zones. It is a great family discussion. Explore this topic with kids and teens.