Researchers have found ‘dead zones’ in the open Atlantic Ocean, where the existence of any form of life is almost impossible.
According to the researchers these regions, which are called dead zones, essentially contain little to no oxygen. This means that any fish that enter these regions would likely suffocate and die. While dead zones are not uncommon near inhabited coastlines, where industrial runoff can trigger algae blooms that suck all of the oxygen out of the water, they’re now popping up the Atlantic Ocean, where researchers didn’t expect them. Researchers are stating that dead zones are a result of the rising temperatures of the oceans, which has been caused by global warming.
Johannes Karstensen, a researcher from the Geomar Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel in Germany, and the lead author of the study, said, “It is not unlikely that an open-ocean dead zone will hit the islands at some point. This could cause the coast to be flooded with low-oxygen water, which may put severe stress on the coastal ecosystems and may even provoke fish kills and the die-off of other marine life.”
While surveying the Atlantic Ocean, the researchers found several dead zones located hundreds of miles off the coast of West Africa. Here the oxygen levels were 20 times lower than what scientists previously thought. One of the dead zones researchers observed was located less than 60 miles north of the Cape Verde archipelago, which could spell danger for marine life near the islands should the dead zone move.
In total, the researchers measured roughly 60 to 100 miles of dead zones in diameter, which extended to a depth of about 330 feet. The swirling makes it difficult for oxygen to be exchanged between the rotating current and the surrounding ocean.
The researchers warned that the dead zones can cause economic, as well as environmental, damage. Commercial fisheries saw significant losses from these events in the Baltic Sea as well as other regions.
The findings of the study were published in the journal Biogeosciences.