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Climate change worsens effects of nutrient pollution on marine ecosystems

Climate change worsens effects of nutrient pollution on marine ecosystems

Aug. 17 (UPI) -- Nutrient overload caused by excess agricultural runoff can seriously harm coastal marine ecosystems, triggering algal blooms that emit toxins and rob marine life of oxygen.

Research published Monday in the journal Frontiers in Marine Science suggests the damage is magnified by other human activities, including overfishing and climate change.

For the new study, researchers reviewed dozens of papers on nutrient pollution, or eutrophication, revealing the complexity of the problem.

To slow and reverse the damage, authors of a new paper suggest a multifaceted approach absorbs the insights of a variety of experts and considers both land-use and ecology.

"The threats posed by eutrophication include reduced water clarity, oxygen depletion, and toxic algal events that result in critical habitat losses such as coral reefs, seagrass meadows and mangrove forests," study author Thomas Malone said in a news release.

"Other serious consequences include mass mortalities of marine animals, loss of biodiversity and threats to human health," said Malone, a professor of ecology at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science.

In reviewing the literature on eutrophication, Malone and co-author Alice Newton, professor of marine science at the University of Algarve in Portugal, identified more than 700 dead zones, where algal blooms regularly deplete oxygen levels.
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