URBANA, Ill. Despite a 12-year action plan calling for reducing the hypoxia zone in the Gulf of Mexico, little progress has been made, and there is no evidence that nutrient loading to the Gulf has decreased during this period. University of Illinois researchers have identified some of the biophysical and social barriers to progress and propose a way forward.
"We are suggesting that a partnership of researchers work closely with farmers to develop the suite of practices that are needed to reduce nutrient losses from agricultural fields," said U of I biogeochemist Mark David who has been studying nitrate loss since 1993. "Working with farmers is essential to develop realistic practices on real-world farmswhere the constraints that influence management are presentto document the effectiveness, and to communicate the environmental and socioeconomic results regionally."
"Biophysical and Social Barriers Restrict Water Quality Improvements in the Mississippi River Basin" was published in the Nov. 5 issue of Environmental Science and Technology. The opinion piece was authored by researchers Mark B. David, Courtney G. Flint, Gregory F. McIsaac, Lowell E. Gentry, Mallory K. Dolan, and George F. Czapar.
David said that the Gulf of Mexico hypoxic zone that was measured in July 2013 was 5,800 square miles (nearly the size of Connecticut), the result of riverine losses of nitrate and total phosphorus from the Mississippi River Basin. The goal of the 2008 action plan is to reduce the zone to a five-year running average of 2,000 square miles by 2015 and calls for a 45 percent reduction in total nitrogen and phosphorus, but these goals have not been met.
"Much of the nitrate that leads to the hypoxic zone formation is lost from millions of acres of fields across the upper Midwest, where drainage has been accelerated by a variety of agricultural practices," David said. "Many flat agricultural fields are artificially drained with perf
|Contact: Debra Levey Larson|
University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences