The Rapid Expansion of Dead Zones in Ocean and Seas Is a Huge Threat for Marine Life

Plenty of oceans and seas have areas that are rather unfriendly for marine life. They can have various degrees of hostility to the point that some are completely uninhabitable. In the latter category, we can include dead zones that contain low levels of oxygen or maybe no oxygen at all. One such area is present in the Arabian Sea, in the Gulf of Oman, and researchers have found out it is the biggest in the world.

These dead zones are big areas in the ocean where creatures cannot survive because of their lack of oxygen. As you might have expected, they are the direct result of climate change. Whenever ecosystems suffer great changes, the chemical composition of water suffers as well.

Any kind of pollutants might reduce oxygen levels in ocean and seas, starting from chemical runoffs from land or massive plastic debris. However, some dead zones have appeared naturally in deep areas. Usually, these natural zones are less severe than the chemically produced ones, but the current frail ecological climate makes this issue a lot more serious.

The Gulf of Oman Dead Zone, the Biggest in the World

Therefore, researchers decided to explore some of these zones and see what this means for our planet. By using some robots that performed underwater scans on these depths, they could make some new discoveries on the zone in the Gulf of Oman. Usually, these dead zones are described as Oxygen Minimum Zones (OMZ), and this particular area is the biggest in the world.

A red tide of algal blooms causing a dead zone, dead zones

Researchers were aware of the massive size of the Gulf of Oman dead zone. However, these latest observations showed the area was undergoing a constant expansion. Of course, this is bad news for our planet. If an area without oxygen keeps getting bigger, the marine life that surrounds it is in great danger.

How Do Pollutants Contribute to the Expansion of Dead Zones?

Whenever land runoffs end up in ocean and seas, the toxic chemicals they contain work as food for algal blooms. As they get more chemicals, they start expanding and occupying a broader surface. However, they don’t only feed on waste. They consume too much oxygen, preventing other marine creatures from using it.

They knew of the activity of the algal blooms for 50 years. However, they had no idea they could produce so much damage. Therefore, they decided to plunge into these depths and see for themselves. They built two robots of human size and sent them to explore the dead zone in the Gulf of Oman for about eight months.

The Situation Is More Serious Than We Thought

They reached an area that remained unstudied so far and discovered it stretched over 165,000 square kilometers. After running a few other scans and simulations, they could tell the dead zone got a lot bigger and more dangerous than it was during 1990s. This was quite scary for the researchers, as marine life is now facing a bigger threat.

There is no immediate solution against dead zones. What we can do is stop them from expanding by reducing the number of pollutants in the ocean. This might at least slow down the algal blooms from consuming so much oxygen. Therefore, we might win some time to solve the issue.

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William E. Eubanks

I'm one of the main writers on the site; mostly dealing with environmental news and ways to live green. My goal is to educate others about this great planet, and the ways we can help to protect it.

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