Fertilizers are used in large quantities all across the United States. The largest use of nitrogen-based fertilizers is in the agricultural industry where farmers use them to help produce greater crop yields. However, tons of fertilizers are used by homeowners on their lawns every year as well.
Much of the fertilizer used in the Mississippi River basin runs off going down into the Gulf of Mexico. Within the Gulf, nitrogen-based fertilizers cause algae blooms and deplete aquatic life of oxygen. This creates a dead zone.
Right now, there is a dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico that is roughly equivalent in size to the state of New Jersey. The area is continuing to grow larger.
Environmental activists want to do something to stem the tide of this growing dead zone. In order to do this, there will need to be a vast reduction in the amount of nitrogen-based fertilizers that are used. What is distressing to environmentalists is a report that stated that if all nitrogen-based fertilizers stopped flowing into the Gulf of Mexico today, it would take approximately 30 years for the dead zone in the Gulf to fully recover.
The Gulf of Mexico is not the only area that is seeing these dead zones in the oceans. Scientists and researchers report that there are currently around 500 of these dead zones of various sizes around the world. All of them are caused by oxygen depletion due to algae bloom from fertilizer run off.
In order to reduce the growth of dead zones, scientists want those in the agricultural industry to cut back on the amount of fertilizer that is being used. Over application is the cause of much of the problem. Also, scientists believe that if grasses and trees are planted in strategic locations, they might be able to catch some of the run off before it makes its way to rivers and eventually into the oceans.