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Graphic of the Week: Double-Headed Monster Threatens Gulf

July 7, 2010

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.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. July 7, 2010 8:08 pm

    Fertilizer pollution has been discusses in South Australia as well. It’s a difficult situation and one I feel is still largely ignored. About 1/2 of the world are fed by natural gas made fertilizers and without it, we would be left with only legumes and compost to get fixed nitrogen. However, these fertilizers end up polluting waterways where the ground water and run off end up. What adds to the problem is that these rivers feed into estuaries which are nurseries for many species – including commercially valuable species (which are already over fished).
    It’s a ticking time bomb and one we can’t stop because we’ll lose a heap of food. What we really need is to start looking at the problem radically differently – our base line and environmental ethics are all wrong.


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