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This Man-Made Phenomenon Will Kill Off Marine Life in an Area the Size of Connecticut

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This year’s dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico will kill off marine life in an area the size of Connecticut, government scientists said Thursday.

Dead zones are created by excess nutrients, in this case from the Mississippi River, that drain into the water and drive a rapid growth of plankton. These plankton are consumed by fish, which in turn leave increased levels of waste at the bottom of the ocean. That waste decomposes in a process that uses up oxygen and leaves organisms unable to breathe.

The about average 6,000-sq.-mi. area, formally known as a hypoxic zone, brings low-oxygen conditions that could harm marine life like fish, shrimp and crab that live in the region, according to a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration report. That loss of marine life in turn threatens the fishermen and communities that rely on seafood.


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Write to Justin Worland at justin.worland@time.com