Gulf of Mexico dead zone to be studied by marine scientists

Oct 24, 2007

University of Texas at Austin marine scientists have been awarded $781,000 by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) to better understand how nutrient pollution from the Mississippi River affects the large area of low oxygen water called the “Dead Zone” in the Gulf of Mexico, and consequently its impact on commercially and recreationally important fish and shellfish.

The funds were awarded to researchers at the University of Texas at Austin Marine Science Institute (UTMSI) through NOAA’s Northern Gulf of Mexico (NGOMEX) Hypoxia and Ecosystems Research Program.

UTMSI researchers will collect experimental data to verify water quality models and help resource managers determine the relationships between nutrient pollution and development, magnitude, longevity, and distribution of the Dead Zone.

Their findings will also support the creation of more accurate models that predict the development of hypoxia on the Louisiana continental shelf.

The project will be led by Dr. Wayne Gardner, professor of marine science. It complements research already underway on the Dead Zone by Professors Peter Thomas and Ed Buskey. Thomas and Buskey are studying the impacts of hypoxia on the biology of fish and benthic invertebrates, respectively.

Hypoxia in aquatic systems refers to waters where the dissolved oxygen concentrations are below 25 percent of their capacity. Most organisms avoid, or become physiologically stressed in, waters with oxygen below these levels. While hypoxia can occur naturally, large events often reflect environments stressed by human impacts. More than half of United States estuaries experience natural or human-induced hypoxic conditions at some time, but the frequency and duration of hypoxic events have increased during the past few decades. These hypoxic events degrade affected ecosystems and associated commercial fisheries.

This past summer off the coast of Louisiana, an area of deep water the size of New Jersey became hypoxic, as measured by NGOMEX-supported scientists. This event was the second largest recorded dead zone area since measurements began in 1985. The largest area was 8,500 square miles in 2002.

Source: University of Texas at Austin

Explore further: NOAA: Warm oceans cause concern of coral bleaching

Related Stories

Scientists find average but large Gulf dead zone

Aug 04, 2014

NOAA- and EPA-supported scientists have mapped the Gulf of Mexico dead zone, an area with low oxygen water, measuring 5,052 square miles this summer—approximately the size of the state of Connecticut. The ...

Recommended for you

NOAA: Warm oceans cause concern of coral bleaching

3 hours ago

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says abnormally warm ocean temperatures are creating conditions that threaten to kill coral across the equatorial Pacific, north Pacific and western Atlantic ...

Historic environmental awareness is changing China

14 hours ago

In China, there has been an explosion of interest in the environment. There is every indication that extreme air pollution is driving new visions of sustainability and new formats of interaction between the ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.