An experienced science writer explains the growing phenomenon of dead zones in the world's waters, describing their effects, their likely causes, and efforts to reduce their spread.
Hand focuses on the Mississippi–Atchafalaya River Basin and the Gulf of Mexico, but she also touches on the Chesapeake Bay, the Great Lakes, and other areas around the world. She selects relevant information and organizes her material clearly, introducing the problem with some personal stories and including quotations from scientists throughout. In straightforward expository prose, she explains why oxygen is necessary in water and connects its disappearance to the increased cultivation of corn and the overuse of nitrogen fertilizers. She mentions other causes as well, including natural ones, oil spills, and global warming. In a chapter called “Success and Failure” she describes efforts at decreasing nutrient runoff and restoring wetlands before offering some hypotheses about why these efforts have not been as successful as people had hoped. Her language is often technical but appropriate to the subject. Photographs are well-captioned, but these explanations are made less legible by the design decision to print some of them directly on the image and the rest in a tiny red font.
Deeply depressing and not for casual readers, but older students will find this an informative introduction to a serious environmental issue. (Nonfiction. 12-16)