Environmental Science

Droughts and dead zones on the rise

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Science  23 Jan 2015:
Vol. 347, Issue 6220, pp. 385-386
DOI: 10.1126/science.347.6220.385-e

Lake Erie as seen from space

PHOTO: NASA/JEFF SCHMALTZ, LANCE/EOSDIS MODIS RAPID RESPONSE

Nutrient-rich agricultural runoff or wastewater discharge can lead to the formation of harmful algal blooms or oxygen-depleted (hypoxic) “dead zones” in surface waters. But now, Zhou et al. show that low tributary river discharge was the largest contributor to a record-breaking hypoxic event in Lake Erie in 2012. Drought conditions across much of North America that year decreased water flow into the lake, exacerbating the effects of persistent nutrient runoff. Because drought and other extreme climate events are expected to increase with climate change, management strategies need to consider all factors that may degrade future water quality.

Environ. Sci. Technol. 10.1021/es503981n (2014).

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