On the Radio: Runoff contributes to largest dead zone in history

Photo by Steve Shupe, Flickr

 Listen to this week’s radio segment here.  It discusses the impact that Miswestern runoff has on the Gulf of Mexico.

Imagine an area of the ocean equal to 20 percent of Iowa that’s unlivable for most marine life. This will soon be a reality in the Gulf of Mexico as they prepare for the largest dead zone in history.

This is the Iowa Environmental Focus.

Iowa is one of nine states accounting for the majority of runoff into the Mississippi River, which flows into the Gulf and creates the dead zone. Scientists expect this years’ dead zone to surpass the previous largest one by up to 1,000 square miles.  Perhaps 30 percent of the nutrient loading comes from Iowa and Illinois alone.

The major culprits are fertilizers that flow off the land through tile lines and in runoff water into the Mississippi. They contain nitrates and phosphates which cause an increase of algae activity in the Gulf. These algae cause the loss of so much oxygen that there’s not enough left for many species to survive.

While some landowners are taking measures to reduce it, the amount of runoff getting into the water remains far too high. Creation of more wetlands and buffer strips along the edge of streams would help greatly.

For more information, visit IowaEnvironmentalFocus.org.

I’m Jerry Schnoor from the UI Center for Global and Regional Environmental Research.

Thank You.

You can check out more Iowa Environmental Focus coverage on runoff and the dead zone here and here.

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