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7/19/2008

Gulf of Mexico "dead zone" to hit record size: NOAA

Houston
The Gulf of Mexico's "dead zone" -
a swath of algae-laden water with oxygen levels low enough to choke out marine life - WILL LIKELY REACH RECORD SIZE this year, and the main culprits are rising ethanol use and massive Midwest flooding. The dead zone, which recurs each year off the Texas and Louisiana coasts, could stretch to more than 8,800 square miles his year - about the size of New Jersey - compared with 6,662 square miles in 2006 and nearly double the annual average since 1990 of 4,800 square miles. "Excess nutrients from the Mississippi River watershed during the spring are the primary human-influenced factor behind the expansion of the dead zone." To reverse the pattern, U.S. farmers must plant more perennial crops that trap rainwater and keep it from running into the Gulf of Mexico. And eventually, scientists need to invent new breeds of perennial corn plants that can remain in the soil from one planting season to the next, avoiding the need to strip fields bare and leave them susceptible to flooding.
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