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Oceans more vulnerable to agricultural runoff than previously thought, study finds

than the state of Massachusetts.

"In the Gulf of Mexico, there's the possibility that hypoxia could occur at a local scale, which could be devastating to the shrimp and shellfish industries," Matson said. "Shrimp fisheries are very important economically, and they're already under a lot of stress from overfishing and aquaculture. It is possible that agricultural runoff could cause additional stress if it does lead to toxic blooms or hypoxia."

She and her colleagues plan to conduct follow-up studies to assess the ecological impact of runoff events in the Yaqui Valley. They also expressed concern about the impact of large farming operations in other vulnerable subtropical and tropical oceans, including Southeast Asia, West Africa, the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal. "Now we can go back and predict which areas of the world will be vulnerable in the same way the Gulf of California is to nutrients coming off the land," Matson said.

"Inarguably, the effects of marine nitrogen pollution are becoming extremely widespread and severe as a consequence of the global expansion of industrialized agriculture and the intensification of certain practices," the authors wrote. "Nitrogen-based fertilizers are the primary source of nitrogen pollution, and their use is predicted to double or triple over the next 50 years."


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