Over the course of the term we have focused on the deleterious effects of agriculture on humans, but the effects of this practice on plant and animal life has been left untouched.  In the previous post the “Dead Zone” at the end of the Mississippi was discussed.  As was noted, this is caused by the process of eutrophication in which nitrogen and phosphorus run-off is used as the building blocks of algal bloom.  However, this effect on seas and oceans is not merely bound by the Mississippi and Gulf.  There are “Dead Zones” up and down the east coast, littered around Europe, and some on the Asian border to the Pacific Ocean.

Oceanographers have counted 405 such dead zones worldwide, ranging in size from 1 km^2 to 70,000 km^2.  This number was reported in 2008, up from 146 dead zones counted in 2003.  These hypoxic regions are a direct result of our worldwide use of fertilizers.  Furthermore, with the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, our required production of corn for ethanol fuel must triple in 10 years.  Fertilizer consumption and agricultural production are directly related; therefore, a tripling of corn production will require a tripling of fertilizer.  This act will further the growth of these hypoxic regions, destroying increasingly more aquatic wildlife.

Following is a documentation of the worlds dead zones.  Notice the littering of red dots up and down the east coast of USA and the Gulf of Mexico.  Is it even possible to catch aquatic life on that side of the country anymore?  Historically the oceans have been viewed as plentiful and bottomless, but our current practices have seen the decline of aquatic species across the board.  Between the Pacific Trash Island Gyre and the Dead Zones we are destroying 70% of the surface of the Earth to produce food for one species.  That makes sense.

*Image courtesy of NASA.