Scientists just measured the largest dead zone ever recorded for the Gulf of Mexico, a whopping 8,776 square miles, massive enough to cover all of New Jersey. And only dramatic shifts in farming practices are likely to prevent even bigger problems in the future.Dead zones, which disrupt fishing industries and threaten aquatic species, are caused by industrial and agricultural runoff.
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Every spring, the Mississippi River funnels a rush of nutrients into the gulf that fuels an explosion of growth of microscopic algae called phytoplankto The bloom of life for the algae is short lived, and their corpses sink to the depths below, where their decomposition gives rise to a burst in bacterial growth. The microbes rapidly consume not only the plankton but also all of the oxygen dissolved in the deep.