Protecting the environment has never been more important than it is today. There are a lot of threats to the external world, and this includes our bodies of water. One of the biggest threats is something called eutrophication. What is eutrophication, why is it taking place, and how can we put a stop to it? Learn more about eutrophication below.
What Is Eutrophication?
First, it is important to understand what eutrophication means. Eutrophication refers to nutrients that pass into the water supply. Even though nutrients are important to the health of plants and animals, too much of any single nutrient can knock the entire ecosystem out of balance.
For example, some bodies of water have excess levels of nitrogen and phosphorus. They come from a variety of sources, including wastewater runoff, failed septic plants, and utility problems. When there is too much nitrogen and phosphorus in the water, it could stimulate the growth of algae, which completely depletes the oxygen in the area.
If there is not enough oxygen in the body of water, plants and animals start to die. This creates dead zones, harming the environment.
What Are the Main Causes of Eutrophication?
There are a few main causes of eutrophication. For example, there are some situations where natural eutrophication could take place. This usually happens when the species composition in a certain body of water begins to change, influencing the flow of nitrogen, phosphorus, and oxygen. Even though this takes place gradually, rapid eutrophication is typically caused by people.
There are several examples of human activities that could contribute to eutrophication. A few examples include:
- Erosion: Erosion can contribute to eutrophication because it leads to a direct increase in minerals in the water, changing the composition. This can also block light from reaching certain parts of the lake. Erosion is commonly caused by a variety of human activities, including construction and mining, which can accelerate the degradation of soil, pushing it into the water and impacting the mineral composition.
- Atmospheric Deposition: This is another possible cause of eutrophication. As greenhouse gases continue to trap certain elements in the atmosphere, a lot of them get pushed into the water, leading to the direct deposition of nitrogen.
- Sewage Waste: Sewage waste can also be a direct cause of eutrophication. Pollution from sewage waste and fertilizer can rapidly change the composition of nitrogen and phosphorus in the water.
It is important to understand the consequences of these activities because they can change the way plants and animals grow and develop in our bodies of water.
What Are the Consequences of Eutrophication?
There are several important consequences of eutrophication. One impact is dense blooms of noxious algae and phytoplankton that smell terrible. Algae blooms when there is limited light penetration, which makes it difficult for plants and animals to live in those locations as the effects move up the food chain. There can be a massive die-off of plants and animals underneath the surface. Furthermore, this can directly harm water quality.
Massive algae blooms can also change the pH of the water. When this happens, a lot of plants and animals will be thrown off because they rely on ph sensors to move, feed, and survive. Even small pH changes can have a massive impact on the ability of organisms to survive.
In addition, this can have a dramatic impact on recreational uses. Algae blooms can make it hard for boats to operate efficiently, and fishing would become more challenging when large numbers start to die. Furthermore, the noxious smell of algae blooms can be detected for miles, which may reduce the number of people who want to spend time on the water.
How Can Eutrophication Be Managed?
There are several ways to limit the impact of eutrophication. A few measures include:
- Protect Bodies of Water: The first step is to stop organizations and companies from dumping waste into our bodies of water. This can reduce the fluctuations of nitrogen and phosphorus that contribute to problems.
- Internal Loading: It might also be a good idea to routinely measure the mineral composition of bodies of water, keeping them in check.
- Create a Reservoir Conservancy District: A reservoir conservancy district allows all homeowners to speak with one voice and control how the water in the local area is used. This can limit human activities that might otherwise lead to eutrophication.
Education is another important part of controlling eutrophication. Learn more about how creating Geist Reservoir Conservancy District might limit the potential impacts of eutrophication on local plants and animals.