What is eutrophication?

Human activity has increased eutrophication in water bodies around the world.

Eutrophication refers to an increase in nutrients in a body of water. Although eutrophication is a natural process, when it is accelerated it is a cause for concern. Many human activities have led to widespread eutrophication in rivers, streams, lakes and oceans across the world. If left unchecked, eutrophication becomes a problem, severely affecting water quality and biodiversity. Eutrophication was first recognized as a problem in the mid-20th century, and many biologists study it extensively in an attempt to prevent further eutrophication of vital water bodies around the world.

As fertilizers enter the water supply, they stimulate an explosion of plants and algae, an event sometimes called an algal bloom.

In the sense of a natural process, eutrophication is part of the aging of water bodies. When a body of water initially forms, it tends to be poor in nutrients. As the streams feed the water body, they carry nutrients that encourage plant life, allowing other species to grow as well. A layer of sediment slowly grows and gradually the body of water will eventually turn into a swamp or swamp as the sediment displaces the water and the species in the area change.

However, eutrophication can be quickly accelerated by human activities, in which case it is known as “nutrient pollution”. Runoff of fertilizers and manure from farms is one of the main causes of eutrophication worldwide. As these nutrients enter the water supply, they stimulate an explosion of plants and algae, an event sometimes called an algal bloom. Plant life drastically reduces the amount of oxygen available in the water, ultimately suffocating animal species and creating the so-called “dead zone”.

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Oceanic dead zones are a big problem, as many of them arose in areas where one of them produced abundant marine life. The Gulf of Mexico, for example, has an infamous dead zone that is larger than the state of New Jersey. Lakes and rivers that are undergoing eutrophication can be easily identified as they often turn bright green or red as a result of algal blooms in their waters. These shocking colors are signs of serious health problems and a major concern for scientists.

As eutrophication is undesirable, many nations have worked to prevent it. Farms, for example, are expected to closely monitor their fertilizer and manure, and environmental agencies can fine these facilities for runoff above acceptable levels. Many countries also try to remove nutrient pollution from their waters and may use other measures to create eutrophication buffer zones, preventing the problem from spreading.

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