Graphic of the Week: Double-Headed Monster Threatens Gulf
Ethanol production linked to another threat big threat in the Gulf
Just when we were about to blame it all on BP, an excellent article by Carolyn Lochhead of the San Francisco Chronicle’s Washington Bureau of another serious threat, and one that’s been in the making for a good many years — runoff from the highly fertilized cornfields of the America’s heartland is carried down the Mississippi River to the Gulf. According to the article federal incentives designed to boost ethanol production have led large monocultures to displace traditional diversified farms and grassland. The big one-crop farms use large amounts of fertilizer and pesticides. The runoff from farms winds up in the drainage to Mississippi River which carries a load of nitrogen and other nutrients to the Gulf. The overabundance of nitrogen causes giant algal blooms; the biological breakdown of the large mass of organic matter consumes dissolved oxygen. The resulting “hypoxia” suffocates marine life. Read the whole article by Lochhead. Here is a copy of the map that appeared in the article.