Happy World Oceans Day!
The world’s oceans are suffering under an increase of dead zones, areas of low oxygen levels, which cause aquatic life to suffocate and die. The main culprit is chemical fertilizer runoff.
Dead zones are a result of eutrophication, which happens when a body of water gets too many nutrients e.g. phosphorus or nitrogen. An overdose of nutrients leads to an overgrowth of aquatic plants and algae. When they die, they sink to the bottom and use up oxygen as they decompose. This process is depleting oxygen levels and causing the death of fish and other aquatic life.
One of the main causes of eutrophication is runoff of chemical fertilizers from agricultural fields. We have seen a dramatic increase in the amount of fertilizers applied, the surplus of which is washed away by rain into waterways and oceans. In fact, the number and sizes of dead zones has doubled each decade since the 1960s, mainly due to agricultural pollution.
The devastating consequences of fertilizer runoff can now be witnessed in the ecosystems of over 245,000 square kilometers of dead zones in our oceans.
We can though reverse this deadly trend.
A good example of which is the black sea dead zone. Once the largest worldwide, it more or less disappeared between 1991 and 2001 when farmers stopped using fertilizers because they became too expensive.
Farming organically can therefore be of benefit to the world’s oceans.
Organic farmers do not use harmful synthetic inputs such as nitrogen fertilizer. Instead they work with nature, building healthy soil to naturally provide the nutrients that plants need.
Eliminating chemical fertilizers from farming could make a significant contribution to the revival of dead zones.
We therefore call for:
- Capacity building for farmers and extension services on how to farm successfully without chemical inputs combining the latest science with local knowledge.
- Policies to incentivize a transition to organic agriculture.
- An end to subsides encouraging the excessive use of chemical inputs