More Desert: On Land and Underwater
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
When is an ocean like a desert? When it can’t support life! This happens when an ocean lacks nutrients vital to sustaining fish and plants. It becomes barren, just like a desert. According to scientists, the world’s “ocean deserts” are expanding at a fast rate. They suspect this is due to global warming. And oceans aren’t the only things becoming barren. A lot more of the land on the planet is also turning into desert. A United Nations panel of experts has warned that if nothing is done to slow or reverse this trend, as many as 50 million people could be forced to leave their homes within the next 10 years.
But just what is an ocean desert anyway? The least biologically productive layer of the ocean, ocean deserts can exist independent of human activity or interference. The question is whether this is a natural cycle that scientists have only been seriously studying for the past decade (although the current studies include oxygen data for some zones going as far back as fifty years), or whether this is something in the environment that is being accelerated—made to happen faster—and intensified by human carelessness.
Ocean deserts are oxygen-starved—or hypoxic
—dead zones caused by too much nitrogen, which creates an environment in which an extreme overgrowth of plankton
happens, growth that saps the oxygen out of the water. This nitrogen can occur naturally, but is more generally the result of pollution
from agricultural fertilizers, sewage, and factory, truck, and automobile waste. The increase of these ocean deserts means ecosystems out of balance, untold numbers of fish species gone from our oceans, less productive biological ocean life, and even, as things worsen, the possibility of no ocean life at all.
For more information on oceans and deserts go to:
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,
"Climate Change Kids Site":
Take Part, "Ocean Dead Zones":
Treehugger, "Lifeless Ocean Deserts Expand Past Decade":