A quote from “The Uninhabitable Earth: A Story of the Future” by David Wallace-Wells:
“It has become quite common to say that we are living through a mass extinction—a period in which human activity has multiplied the rate at which species are disappearing from the earth by a factor perhaps as large as a thousand. It is probably also fair to call this an era marked by what is called ocean anoxification. Over the past fifty years, the amount of ocean water with no oxygen at all has quadrupled globally, giving us a total of more than four hundred “dead zones”; oxygen-deprived zones have grown by several million square kilometers, roughly the size of all of Europe; and hundreds of coastal cities now sit on fetid, under-oxygenated ocean. This is partly due to the simple warming of the planet, since warmer waters can carry less oxygen. But it is also partly the result of straightforward pollution—a recent Gulf of Mexico dead zone, all 9,000 square miles of it, was powered by the runoff of fertilizer chemicals washing into the Mississippi from the industrial farms of the Midwest. In 2014, a not-atypical toxic event struck Lake Erie, when fertilizer from corn and soy farms in Ohio spawned an algae bloom that cut off drinking water for Toledo. And in 2018, a dead zone the size of Florida was discovered in the Arabian Sea—so big that researchers believed it might encompass the entire 63,700-square-mile Gulf of Oman, seven times the size of the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. 24 “The ocean,” said the lead researcher Bastien Queste, “is suffocating.””
I recommend reading this book for free: https://amzn.eu/5ExpRtH
We can make changes to agricultural practices to prevent these disastrous events involving fertilizer run-offs. We can also ask ourselves why we even produce fertilizer and create a demand for its production?
I know Russia leads the world in such high production and many countries cannot cope without supplies for their farming practices.
I became aware of fertilizer demand and production during the UK Covid impact on production in 2021 and I wrote about it in a blog at the time:
Production of harmful fertilizers has not proven itself to be beneficial to the ecosystem, yet it is in huge demand by those who use intensive farming methods. Of course, it also is used in recipes for bomb making. The catastrophic explosion of stored fertilizer in the port of Beirut will be forever remembered. We need to rethink our farming practices as a matter of urgency.
The Soil Association explain that soil has to be understood. Their organic approach to production contrasts with industrial farming techniques,
We must rethink our industrial strategies which have played a major role in warming the planet.
Human problem solving is the way forward. Local farmers are motivated to experiment and find solutions. Take olive growing. In Greece, growers have been experimenting by growing cover crops such as common vetch, barley or chickpeas between rows of olive trees. Such crops return nitrogen to the soil and reduce the need for adding fertilizers. Once gathered, they provide food for both animals and humans, increasing income too.
Farmers are striving to reduce harmful emissions and develop sustainable methodology to help reduce the harm of a century of industrial practices. Some work with the evidence based alliance, Field to Market:
In this way they work to understand and respect the soil and how to retain its vital qualities, once so well appreciated by Neolithic farmers of ancient times.
In Namibia, the dead zone in the ocean will come and go according to certain conditions:
Along the coast of Namibia, easterly winds push surface waters offshore and promote upwelling near the coast. Studies have described how bacteria in oxygen-depleted bottom waters off Namibia consume organic matter and produce prodigious amounts of hydrogen sulfide. As the gas bubbles up into more oxygen-rich water, the sulfur precipitates out and floats near the surface. See:
The seas off Namibia are rich in aquatic diversity, but dead zones have developed and been noted since the 19th century:
The dead zone expansion in the Baltic Sea has been studied for decades, as all dead zones should be, for they are, in many cases, symptomatic of our dying Planet. See:
Algal blooms can also impact aquaculture, or the farming of marine life. One red tide event wiped out 90 percent of the entire stock of Hong Kong’s fish farms in 1998, resulting in an estimated economic loss of $40 million. See:
Dr Francis Chan is studying the large dead zone developing off Oregon and Washington. See:
Tasmanian fish farms contribute to dead zones in the region, maybe part of the reason for lack of food for aquatic wildlife:
It is a massive challenge to return the balance to dead zones, depending on the cause being understood after proper investigation. These dead zones are erupting in ocean waters and killing life at a fast rate. Our very existence came from the oceans, yet we have triggered an accelerated path of harm through our industrial endeavours.
The above link is about cultivating wetlands which help return a healthy balance back into waters so as to return the natural ocean to its former glory. But the cause here was bad farming practices on land.
Those who fish for a living know where the upwelling zones are, but factory fishing damages the ecosystems in such zones. Therefore, human activity has to be closely monitored and regulated.
There are many links to help understand the natural and wonderful ancient earth system which has provided a wealth of food for humans since the origin of homo sapiens.
Here is one leading source:
Upwelling is created by the interaction of wind, deep currents, and the Coriolis effect, as highlighted in these steps:
- Prevailing winds blow on the surface of the ocean.
- The Coriolis effect causes the movement of the water being blown by the wind to move away from the shore or open ocean.
- Deep currents move upward to fill in the gap left by the water moving offshore or away.
The eruption of hydrogen sulfide causing devastating toxic dead zones are another matter. Changing weather patterns seem to be a factor, and we know our oceans are warming at too fast a rate. The balance of nature is so out of kilter we would have to make massive global changes to our lifestyles in one cooperative move of humanity to begin to fix this problem.