Oil Spill vs. Hypoxic Zone

There’s an elephant in the room as summer arrives on the Gulf Coast: hypoxia season.

This year, it’s a different Gulf, one covered in the largest oil slick in our country’s history.  No one is quite sure what the interaction between the oil and hypoxia will be.  Best guess is that both stresses will mean the end for most organisms living in the area and that hypoxia will exacerbate problems associated with the spill and hinder recovery by limiting oxygen availability for detoxifying bacteria.  However, step back for a minute and speculate on other possibilities: could the oil spill actually be helpful if it prevents or slows the eutrophication process? Could the damages associated with the oil spill be less than those associated with a large hypoxic zone?

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