Morgan Schacker is a Long Island native with a desire to explore the planet. Morgan is a senior at Hunter College in the Environmental Studies BA program. While only studying environmental science for three semesters, she is close to finishing her degree and holds a strong passion for learning about and protecting the Earth. Morgan is compelled to spread awareness in her community of the growing concerns that consume our planet. She hopes to bring this awareness abroad, where she can live and work in a meaningful arena for environmental protection. Her career goals area directed toward resource management and alternative energy. She is also studying Dharma yoga and wishes to learn more about meditation and how the human body works, with a connection to the earth. Hopefully in the future she will be able to combine her two passions in a positive and effective manner.
Nitrogen and Phosphorus: Unyielding Destruction in the Gulf – Agricultural Runoff in the Mississippi River Basin
As industrial agriculture progresses in the open lands of the United States, marine ecosystems are deteriorating in the Gulf of Mexico. Where the waters once glistened just south of Louisiana, increased fertilizer usage is allowing nutrients to flow rapidly into the waters of the Mississippi River and spilling into the Gulf. Excess nutrients, including nitrogen and phosphorous, combined with regional circulation and water stratification has caused the discharge area below the Mississippi River Basin to become hypoxic. The area affected currently stretches 5,000 square miles, but has been much larger in past decades. The dead zone is of the largest on Earth, second only to the Baltic Sea. The nitrate flux promotes rapid algae growth, which in turn removes oxygen from the water column. The resulting decline of marine wildlife is not just environmental, but economic. Major fishing industries are suffering in the United States, as well as in Mexico. Recent research has pushed academics to find a solution. A main issue blocking the road to resolution, is the vast amount of non-point sources runoff originates from. Several cities lay on the channels that flow into the Mississippi river as well as countless industrial facilities and a multitude of agricultural farms. Progress will come from improved agricultural processes and enhanced technologies for filtering runoff, including soil and water management. Still, there is no one solution, and all involved polluters must come together to systematically promote better-quality practices.
Key words: HABs, Eutrophication, Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Dead Zone, Runoff