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Decline in dead zones: Efforts to heal Chesapeake Bay are working
Date:11/3/2011

ologist with the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science's Horn Point Laboratory. "The overall extent and duration of mid-to-late summer hypoxia are decreasing."

Another part of the study looked at a trend that has troubled some bay watchers. In recent years, Chesapeake researchers have seen an early summer spike in dead zones. They feared that keeping more nutrients out of the bay was not improving its health. But the new study found that the early summer jump in dead zones was influenced by climate forces, not by the runoff of pollutants.

In a phenomenon called stratification, fresh water from the rivers entering the bay forms a layer on top of the more dense salt water, which comes from the ocean. The two layers don't easily mix, so when air near the surface adds oxygen to the top layer, it doesn't reach the deeper salt water. Without oxygen at these lower depths, marine animals cannot live, and a dead zone is formed.

"Rebecca discovered that the increase in these early summer dead zones is because of changes in climate forces like wind, sea levels and the salinity of the water. It was not because the efforts to keep pollutants out of the bay were ineffective," said William P. Ball, a professor of environmental engineering in the Whiting School of Engineering at Johns Hopkins. Ball, a co-author of the new study, is Murphy's doctoral advisor.

"We believe," Ball added, "that without those efforts to rein in the pollutants, the dead zone conditions in June and early July would have been even worse."


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Contact: Phil Sneiderman
prs@jhu.edu
443-287-9960
Johns Hopkins University
Source:Eurekalert  

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