Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Nitrogen From Human Activities May Be As Damaging As Phosphorus

Date:
May 19, 2009
Source:
Springer
Summary:
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 phosphorus, researchers now argue that nitrogen imbalance is equally damaging.

Excess phosphorus and nitrogen leads to eutrophication.
Credit: Copyright Michele Hogan

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 phosphorus, Professor Hans Paerl, from the University of North Carolina in the US, argues that nitrogen imbalance is equally damaging. He adds that a dual nutrient strategy – tackling both phosphorus and nitrogen surplus - is necessary to manage effectively this nutrient over-enrichment and resulting habitat degradation of coastal waters in the long-term.

The combination of human population growth, urbanization, and agricultural and industrial expansion is causing unprecedented and alarming rates of nutrient over-enrichment and accelerated plant growth in receiving waters worldwide. The increasing levels of nitrogen and phosphorus are of particular concern because an excess of these two nutrients promotes accelerated production of plant-based organic matter (or eutrophication) to the extent that excessive production, including harmful algal blooms, contributes to the expansion of marine ‘dead zones’ and leads to the destruction of fisheries habitat.

The negative consequences of eutrophication have been apparent in freshwater habitats for a long time and phosphorus has been identified as the key nutrient responsible. While freshwater lakes have, over the past few decades, received continual doses of phosphorus, many coastal systems have experienced ever-increasing nitrogen loads from rapidly growing human sources, with severe negative impacts on ecosystem structure and function. This has led to the need for nitrogen control measures.

Professor Paerl shows that the argument for reducing surplus phosphorus alone, to control eutrophication, is idealized and conceptually and technically inapplicable to many freshwater and marine ecosystems. He adds that focusing on phosphorus alone ignores the fact that natural and human influences that affect upstream waters have significant adverse consequences on downstream waters. Therefore, it is essential to look at nutrient control measures and their effects across the entire freshwater to marine continuum, not each one in isolation.

Professor Paerl concludes that “the dual nutrient approach represents an evolutionary step in arresting eutrophication, with consideration of the larger scale freshwater-marine continuum being the driving force. Only focusing on a stream, lake, or river within this hydrologic continuum may at best only solve part of the larger scale eutrophication problem and at worst aggravate downstream ecological conditions.”


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. Paerl et al. Controlling Eutrophication along the Freshwater–Marine Continuum: Dual Nutrient (N and P) Reductions are Essential. Estuaries and Coasts, 2009; DOI: 10.1007/s12237-009-9158-8

Cite This Page:

Springer. "Nitrogen From Human Activities May Be As Damaging As Phosphorus." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 May 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/05/090518120956.htm>.
Springer. (2009, May 19). Nitrogen From Human Activities May Be As Damaging As Phosphorus. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 17, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/05/090518120956.htm
Springer. "Nitrogen From Human Activities May Be As Damaging As Phosphorus." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/05/090518120956.htm (accessed September 17, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) Squid experts in New Zealand thawed and examined an unusual catch on Tuesday: a colossal squid. It was captured in Antarctica's remote Ross Sea in December last year and has been frozen for eight months. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Man Floats for 31 Hours in Gulf Waters

Man Floats for 31 Hours in Gulf Waters

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) A Texas man is lucky to be alive after he and three others floated for more than a day in the Gulf of Mexico when their boat sank during a fishing trip. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Researchers Explore Shipwrecks Off Calif. Coast

Researchers Explore Shipwrecks Off Calif. Coast

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) Federal researchers are exploring more than a dozen underwater sites where they believe ships sank in the treacherous waters west of San Francisco in the decades following the Gold Rush. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Isolated N. Korea Asks For International Help With Volcano

Isolated N. Korea Asks For International Help With Volcano

Newsy (Sep. 16, 2014) Mount Paektu volcano in North Korea is showing signs of life and there's not much known about it. Video provided by Newsy
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:
from the past week

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