Researchers call for nitrogen and phosphorus reductions to combat eutrophication in aquatic systems

Feb 19, 2009

An international group of scientists is renewing calls for policymakers to reduce both nitrogen and phosphorus when attempting to alleviate eutrophication - or nutrient pollution problems - in fresh and coastal waters. In the February 20 edition of Science, the researchers argue that dual-nutrient reduction strategies are likely to be more successful due to complex interactions between nitrogen and phosphorus in fresh and coastal water ecosystems.

"If the overall goal of nutrient reduction programs is to reestablish balanced aquatic ecosystems, research tells us to focus pollution reductions efforts on both nitrogen and phosphorus," said co-author Dr. Donald Boesch of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. "Efforts focusing on only one nutrient can possibly help freshwater systems, but tend to push pollution problems downstream into coastal and estuarine systems."

"Policymakers need to adopt holistic approaches when combating eutrophication," added lead author Dr. Daniel Conley of Sweden's Lund University. "Heavily polluted estuaries can demonstrate either nitrogen or phosphorous limitations depending upon the season or location, so it is important that pollution reduction measures address the true root of the problem."

Excess nutrients often lead to harmful algal blooms and oxygen-deprived "dead zones" occurring in freshwater lakes and coastal waters. Scientists attribute these elevated nutrient levels to the production of fertilizers, increased fossil fuel emissions, and effluent from municipal and industrial wastewater treatment.

More information: "Controlling Eutrophication: Nitrogen and Phosphorus" appears in the Science Policy Forum on February 20. The article was authored by Drs. Daniel J. Conley, Hans W. Paerl, Robert W. Howarth, Donald F. Boesch, Sybil P. Seitzinger, Karl E. Havens, Christiane Lancelot, and Gene E. Likens.

Source: University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science

Explore further: Risks from extreme weather are 'significant and increasing'

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Double trouble for water life

May 18, 2009

Excess phosphorus and nitrogen produced by human activities on neighboring land is making its way into our coastal waters and degrading both water quality and aquatic life. Although historically the priority has been to control ...

Recommended for you

Education is key to climate adaptation

11 hours ago

Given that some climate change is already unavoidable—as just confirmed by the new IPCC report—investing in empowerment through universal education should be an essential element in climate change adaptation ...

India court slams Delhi's worsening air pollution

20 hours ago

India's environment court has slammed the government over the capital's horrendous air pollution, which it said was "getting worse" every day, and ordered a string of measures to bring it down.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.