• Description

For more than 30 years, scientists have investigated an area of deep water in the Gulf known as a "dead zone," which contains so little oxygen that fish and other marine life flee from it or die (Hazen et al. 2009). In the summer of 2017, it swelled to the size of New Jersey. The size of this area experiencing often fatally low levels of oxygen—what scientists call hypoxia— varies depending upon spring rains and snow melt. These carry large quantities of excess soil nutrients, largely nitrogen, down the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers to the Gulf. There, this polluted water sets off a chain reaction of ecological and economic consequences straining the resilience of diverse fishing operations and local communities that depend upon a healthy Gulf for their livelihoods.