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Coastal dead zones expanding

The number of coastal areas known as dead zones is on the rise. A new tally reports more than 400 of the oxygen starved regions worldwide.

You're traveling through another ecosystem, once filled with fish and clams, but now, bacteria. It’s a journey into a disastrous land with boundaries that are expanding beyond imagination. That's a signpost up ahead: Your next stop — The Dead Zone.

The number of dead zones, marine areas with so little oxygen that they barely support life, has increased worldwide by a third since 1995, reports a new study in the Aug.15 Science. These areas seriously stress marine ecosystems and deplete stocks of edibles such as fish and clams.

Warming coastal waters and greater demand for corn will probably exacerbate the problem, says Alan Lewitus, chief of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Ecosystem Stressors Research Branch in Silver Spring, Md., which partially funded the study. Restricting the flow of nutrients into waterways is the first step in beginning to resuscitate these zones, but recovery may take years, he says.

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