Featured Image Credit: NASA Earth Observatory
Dead zones, aka oxygen minimal zones, are areas with little to no oxygen where few organisms can survive. They emerge in ocean depths ranging from 650 to 2,600 feet when influxes of chemical nutrients- usually caused by human pollution- spur algae growth, which sucks up the oxygen.
Last surveyed in the 1990’s, in the Arabian Sea near the Gulf of Oman, inhabited a significant oxygen-deprived region. Recently, researchers returned to this region finding that the dead zone has expanded far more than they projected which raises concerns about the future of the ecosystem. This research conducted by the UEA (University of East Anglia) shows that this body of water is losing oxygen and it is losing it fast.
The UEA used robots, called Seagliders, to conduct the research. Inhabiting the sea for months at a time, each Seaglider is the size of a human diver, can go a thousand meters down, and has the ability to transmit data via satellites to the scientist.
The UEA sent two Seagliders into the Arabian Sea for a span of eight months. During that time, the Seagliders data showed not only the small amounts of oxygen left in the system but also its travel from one region to another. The scientist discovered that the area in which they believe they would find massive amounts of oxygen, there was none at all.
The Arabian Sea now inhabits the largest dead zone in the world. Up until now, no one knew how bad it was due to the piracy and conflict creating a dangerous area to collect data manually. This sea is home to many fish species, including many that are tolerant to low-oxygen conditions. But researchers’ finding reveals that low-oxygen levels are not just an issue for the sea creatures, but also humans too.
It is a real environmental problem with consequences to anyone who relies on the oceans for food or employment.
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