Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Biodiversity In Crops Decreases Fertilizer Damage To Rivers And Lakes

Date:
February 13, 2009
Source:
Ecological Society of America
Summary:
Researchers have identified a link between the diversity of crops grown in farmlands and the pollution they create in lakes and rivers. Ecologists show that when the biodiversity of crops is high, less dissolved nitrogen is found exiting the surrounding watersheds.

Researchers have identified a link between the diversity of crops grown in farmlands and the pollution they create in lakes and rivers. In a Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment e-View paper, ecologists show that when the biodiversity of crops is high, less dissolved nitrogen is found exiting the surrounding watersheds.

Related Articles


Nitrogen from agricultural fertilizers leaches through soils to groundwater and runs off into rivers and lakes, increasing aquatic dissolved nitrate. Too much nitrate in the water can lead to prolific growth of aquatic algae, which can use up most of a water body's oxygen when they die and are decomposed, creating "dead zones" that cannot support life.

Whitney Broussard of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and R. Eugene Turner of Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge compiled data from the past 100 years on watersheds varying in size from the Illinois Cache River basin (400 square miles) to the Mississippi River Basin (more than a million square miles). The researchers compared this watershed data with land-use practices since the early 1900s.

The results show that since the beginning of the last century, the average farm size in the United States has doubled and the number of farms has fallen by almost two-thirds. Broussard also says that a shift from farm animals and simple plows to the use of machines to till croplands has changed not only the culture but the environmental impact of farming.

"With the growing American farm comes the necessity to use more industrialized means of farming," says Broussard. "Our agricultural practices have always impacted water quality, but over the past century the mechanization of agriculture and the use of more potent fertilizers has caused a greater effect: the nitrogen leakage rate is higher."

Modern farms tend to produce fewer crop varieties; this lower crop biodiversity can negatively impact surrounding watersheds. According to the study, within a given area, a higher biodiversity of crops led to less dissolved nitrogen in surrounding water bodies. The explanation for this phenomenon, Broussard says, is difficult to discern.

"Diverse farms tend to have smaller fields with more edges, which can mean there's a greater buffering effect on nitrogen runoff by surrounding grasslands or woodlands," he says.

The researchers' results also showed that since 1906, the average aquatic nitrate concentration increased threefold in the entire U.S. and tenfold in the Iowa, Des Moines, and Minnesota Rivers, all of which fall in heavily tilled agricultural areas.

In areas where farming is scarce or absent, however, the authors found no perceptible change in dissolved nitrogen concentrations since the early 1900s. Broussard thinks this indicates that the impacts might be reversible if policy changes included incentives for farmers to rotate more crops, decrease their field size, increase the edges of fields and sizes of buffering zones, and incorporate more native perennial grasses into farms and in between fields.

"There has been great progress made to reduce the footprint of agriculture, but there is still room for improvement," says Broussard. "The American farmer is caught in a mode of production that has tremendous momentum and cannot be changed on the farm – it's a policy question now."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Ecological Society of America. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Ecological Society of America. "Biodiversity In Crops Decreases Fertilizer Damage To Rivers And Lakes." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 February 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090211094033.htm>.
Ecological Society of America. (2009, February 13). Biodiversity In Crops Decreases Fertilizer Damage To Rivers And Lakes. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090211094033.htm
Ecological Society of America. "Biodiversity In Crops Decreases Fertilizer Damage To Rivers And Lakes." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090211094033.htm (accessed October 31, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Friday, October 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Watch Baby Goose Survive A 400-Foot Cliff Dive

Watch Baby Goose Survive A 400-Foot Cliff Dive

Buzz60 (Oct. 31, 2014) For its nature series Life Story, the BBC profiled the barnacle goose, whose chicks must make a daredevil 400-foot cliff dive from their nests to find food. Jen Markham has the astonishing video. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
World's Salamanders At Risk From Flesh-Eating Fungus

World's Salamanders At Risk From Flesh-Eating Fungus

Newsy (Oct. 31, 2014) The import of salamanders around the globe is thought to be contributing to the spread of a deadly fungus. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Alcoholic Drinks In The E.U. Could Get Calorie Labels

Alcoholic Drinks In The E.U. Could Get Calorie Labels

Newsy (Oct. 31, 2014) A health group in the United Kingdom has called for mandatory calorie labels on alcoholic beverages in the European Union. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Malaria Threat in Liberia as Fight Against Ebola Rages

Malaria Threat in Liberia as Fight Against Ebola Rages

AFP (Oct. 31, 2014) Focus on treating the Ebola epidemic in Liberia means that treatment for malaria, itself a killer, is hard to come by. MSF are now undertaking the mass distribution of antimalarials in Monrovia. Duration: 00:38 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins