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Posted Wed Jun 15 2011: from Scientific American:
Mississippi Floods Could Mean Record Gulf 'Dead Zone'
This year's record Mississippi River floods are forecast to create the biggest Gulf of Mexico "dead zone" since systematic mapping began in 1985, U.S. scientists reported on Tuesday. Often created by farm chemical run-off carried to the Gulf by the Mississippi, the 2011 low-oxygen "dead zone" could measure 8,500 to 9,421 square miles (22,253 to 26,515 sq km), or an area roughly the size of New Hampshire, the U.S. Geological Survey said in a statement. This would be bigger than 2002's record-large hypoxic zone, which stretched over 8,400 square miles (21,750 sq km).... Excess nutrients from the farm chemicals in the water -- mostly nitrogen and phosphorous -- do the same thing in the Gulf that they do on agricultural fields: they encourage plant growth.... In the Gulf, they cause tiny marine plants called phytoplankton to bloom, decay, die and sink to the bottom, where bacteria eat their remains and use up oxygen in the water as they do so.
[Read more stories about: dead zones, toxic buildup, fertilizer runoff]

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