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Eutrophication:Causes and Solutions

Updated on June 18, 2012

Eutrophication is a water pollution caused from excess nitrogen and phosphorus that depletes the oxygen from lower sediments and the water above it. This can occur from natural eutrophication from excess phytoplankton dying and excreting fecal matter that forms bacteria on the waters floor. The bacteria then absorbs oxygen as it decomposes, eventually depleting the area. This dead area is inhabitable for bottom dwellers, as well as the fish in the above water and is referred to as a Dead Zone.

Another form of eutrophication is cultural, basically caused from man. The over use of fertilizers containing nitrogen and phosphorus find their way into the water from runoff. This can result in triple soluble nitrogen that is deposited into river ways and eventually drains into surrounding Gulfs. Like natural eutrophication, this excess nitrogen absorbs the surrounding oxygen from the sediment layer, as well as above water.

Ways to prevent or combat this water pollution phenomenon is the obvious answer of using less nitrogen and phosphorus rich fertilizers. More organic and environmentally friendly fertilizers could reduce the problematic chemicals that are released into the waterways. Another way to address the issue would be to find ways to retain the nitrogen in the ground where it is needed. Combined with activities to take the excess nitrogen out of the water. If better fertilizers were found and used, paired with clean-up efforts, the size of these dead zones could shrink.


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