Eutrophication is one of the several ecological problems visible on the surface of water bodies. Eutrophication is characterized by a layer of abnormally growing algae on the water surface and has several harmful effects. Before knowing about the harmful effects, one must properly know about the eutrophication process and its causes.
What is Eutrophication?
The process of eutrophication can be defined as the enrichment of water bodies by phosphorous and nitrogen nutrients. Due to the enrichment, dense algae and other floating plants like nile cabbage and water hyacinths grows abnormally on the water surface. The causes of eutrophication can be varying. Some of the most important causes of eutrophication include:
- Use of fertilizers with high concentration of nitrates and phosphates
- Discharge of nutrients by concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs)
- Directly discharging sewage and industrial wastes into the water
- Due to other natural events including sediment accumulation in the waters bodies which contribute to the explosive growth of phytoplankton and cyanobacterial blooms.
In general, human activities have sped up the process of eutrophication and have resulted in several environmental problems discussed below.
Effects of Eutrophication
Eutrophication has several harmful effects on the environment and natural life cycles of organisms. Some of the most prominent consequences of eutrophication are discussed below.
- Limits the Water Supply and Degrade the Quality
With algal blooms, the supply pipes get blocked and limit the availability of water. Also, as the algal blooms are highly toxic, the quality of water deteriorates. The growth of toxic bacteria is enhanced in anaerobic conditions which result in further deterioration of water quality.
- Poisons the Water and Threatens Life
Toxic algae and cyanobacteria release poisonous toxins in the water. This poisonous water causes fatal health hazards in humans and other animals if ingested with drinking water. Also, the high concentration of nitrogen in drinking water can cause blue baby syndrome and other severe health conditions.
- Endangers Fishes and other Aquatic animals
With the overgrowing of algae, the presence of dissolved oxygen is limited. With limited oxygen in the water bodies, other animals and plant bodies fail to get the minimum amount of oxygen required for respiration.
- Degrades Fishing Opportunities
As the water surface gets covered with dense mats of algal bloom and other floating plants, setting fishing nets becomes difficult. Also, as the water gets covered with dense plants like nile cabbage and water hyacinths, the mobility of boats and other fishing vehicles gets highly reduced.
Reducing water transparency and degrading recreational opportunities are few other important effects of eutrophication. Various efforts are already been implemented to reduce the effects of eutrophication.