In the immediate aftermath of catastrophic flooding in Texas, there is no time to think about the long term effects of the flood on the environment. But regardless of this, the effects will be devastating for years to come. Loss of life and property, loss of a sense of safety, loss of hometowns and neighbors. But the wildlife will be affected as well, and will feel the negativity for years.
The Gulf of Mexico is home to many plants and animals, but it is also home to one of the largest “dead zones” on record. A dead zone is an area where there is too little oxygen in the water to support marine life, and it’s largely caused by human activity.
How are dead zones created? Nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorous from farms and other human activity get into rivers and rivers feed into the gulfs/oceans. The nutrients cause plankton blooms, which then die and sink to the bottom of the sea. The decay of the plankton blooms uses up all the oxygen, and causes the area to become hypoxic. Marine life can’t live in these “dead zones”.
When something like a 100 year flood devastates humans on land, it will shortly thereafter wreak havoc on the surrounding bodies of water. The size of the deadzone in the Gulf of Mexico was 8776 square miles in August 2017, before Hurricane Harvey touched down in Houston.
After Hurricane Harvey hit, observers watched the run off from the storm headed straight for the Flower Garden Banks, a marine protected area that is home to two coral reef formations in 56 square miles. How far reaching will the effects be from this storm? Only time will tell, but hopefully heightened awareness of the Gulf of Mexico deadzone, and then current opportunity to rebuild in a more environmentally aware way means that instead of a pessimistic outlook we should perhaps be looking to the bright side and planning on making things better.
How can you prevent run off? From the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s website, here are tips that you can use in your every day life to prevent Urban Run Off:
- “Buy “environmentally safe” household cleaners,
- Properly store all toxic materials,
- Take all unwanted hazardous materials and containers to local collection sites,
- Use kitty litter or other absorbent to remove spills from pavement,
- Use pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers sparingly and carefully,
- Use a broom instead of a hose to clean up yard clippings,
- Pick up animal wastes and dispose of them in garbage cans,
- Take used motor oil and antifreeze to a recycling center or hazardous waste collection center,
- Reduce leakage of oil, antifreeze and other fluids from your car by regular inspections and maintenance,
- Call 1-800-CLEANUP to report any illegal dumping or discharging into storm drains.”
working together to help our planet,