Dead Zones

We want to thank the Key West law offices of Smith & Jones who are social security disability attorneys for giving us the resources to be able to research this post. I met Patrick Smith several years ago when I hired him, after a google search online for a Key West social security disability lawyer to help my father navigate the social security disability appeals process. My father had become disabled and was unable to continue to work. The doctors said that with his debilitating physical illness that they didn’t expect him to return to work and that the illness just might result in his death. They were correct that my father would not be able to work, but the illness didn’t kill him. I immediately started the lengthy process of filing a social security disability claim. After his initial claim was turned down and then the Reconsideration request as well, I decided he would need a social security disability lawyer to help us navigate the treacherous water of an appeal hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge. Patrick Smith took care of everything for my father. He made sure all my father’s paperwork, filings, and research was completed in a timely manner. He also helped prep my father for the hearing before a judge. Fortunately, the judge approved my father’s claim and he has been able to receive benefits for the past 2 years. Although Patrick received 25% of my father’s claim’s benefit (up to $6000.00), I still feel that it was worth it. And now Patrick and his partners are supporting my work. Thanks, Patrick. Let’s get on with this article about Dead Zones in the ocean.

A “dead zone” is an area of the ocean with low- or no oxygen. Typically, these areas are caused by an overabundance of certain chemicals, with our titular nitrogen being one of the most common (along with phosphorus).

These chemicals are, of course, naturally-occurring and essential to many forms of life. However, we also manufacture them in quantities far greater then normal, most commonly for things like fertilizer. When this stuff is washed into the waters, the normal percentage of things like nitrogen and phosphorus is increased.

And when this happens, there’s a surge in the population of the critters that enjoy these chemicals the most: algae and plankton. These little guys thrive in such conditions, which you might think is a good thing — after all, they’re the fundamental food for countless species.

For those of us who eat shellfish, this can be a serious issue. Read on!

But when the algae have a baby boom (which we refer to as “algae bloom”), they spread quickly and thickly over the surface, limiting the amount of sunlight under the surface. Nearly everyone has seen a body of water that looks especially green (or red) and opaque; that’s an algal bloom. Not all are especially dangerous, in fact there’s a special category called “harmful algal blooms” (HABs) to distinguish them from the more natural and innocuous kind.

Harmful or not, the algal blooms tend to block out the sunlight from reaching lower areas of the water, which can certainly affect anything trying to live below. As you know, sunlight is necessary for photosynthesis, which in turn is necessary for oxygen production. And oxygen, obviously, is necessary for breathing (a thing that many creatures, even in the ocean, really like to do on a regular basis!).

This would be bad enough, but the lack of oxygen also encourages certain other critters to thrive — for example, a particularly nasty little guy named Clostridium botulinum. If you recognize the similarity between his last name and the deadly botulism neurotoxin, you win a prize; areas where this bacteria grow are deadly (fun fact: only 0.0075 microgams of botulin are enough to kill the average person, and 1 kilogram of the stuff could finish off every man, woman, and child on the face of the earth!).

Botulin and other toxins in the water can be picked up by other creatures, most significantly fish and shellfish…making entire communities of species poisonous to the birds and mammals (including us) that feed on them (whether we’re playing at a USA casino online or not!).

The good news is that dead zones can be “cured” by reduction or elimination of fertilizer runoff, or the introduction of aluminum sulfate in the affected waters. The Black Sea is an excellent example of a previously-dead body of water that has been partially restored once the flow of damaging fertilizers stopped. However, the more unbounded and unpredictable dead zones in the ocean may be more difficult to control.

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