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Ambassador report

[Ambassador report] Marine life and biodiversity: the challenges of eutrophication in Europe

by Alice Ervaz | 25-11-2019 22:57 Comments 8 Comments recommendations 0 recommendations



“Happy birthday to youuuu”. After hearing this famous birthday song, one might wonder whose birth we should actually be celebrating. No, neither your favorite singer’s nor some obscure African President’s. Funnily enough, September 2019 marks the 350th anniversary of the discovery of the P element, better known as phosphorus. However, if you are not a chemistry die-hard fan, you might not be acquainted with all the marvelous qualities of the 15th element of Mendeleev’s table.

 

Its name is derived from the ancient Greek and it was the original denomination of planet Venus, literally meaning “light-bringer”. Some fun facts about this element are connected with the human body – it is indeed the second most abundant mineral found in human beings, with most of it concentrated in our bones and in our brains to strengthen memory.

 

What people often do not know about phosphorus however, is that this element is currently endangering the equilibria of our seas, possibly causing the deterioration of many ecosystems around the world. Being the most important component of agricultural fertilizers, a large concentration in the estuaries and coastal waters enriches the ecosystem with nutrients that cause large blooms in algae growth. Phosphorus, along with Nitrogen are the primary elements behind this process, called eutrophication. The presence of a disproportioned amount of nutrients causes algal blooms and reduction of oxygen in waters (hypoxic) that can kill fish and seagrass and damage critical fish habitats.

 

But how do phosphorus and nitrogen actually accumulate in the marine ecosystem? Most of it comes from agricultural sources including fertilizer overflow and septic system waste to atmospheric fallout coming from consumption of fossil energy sources —which enter waterways and trigger the overgrowth of algae, which, in turn, decreases the quality of the marine habitat and damages estuarine and coastal bionetworks. While most of the worst causes of pollution have been tackled in the previous years and significant improvements have been achieved, including the betterment of wastewater treatment facilities and the cut on production runoff, in some areas of the world eutrophication is still a concerning issue.

 

The Baltic Sea is a blatant example of a water basin that is being heavily affected by this process. As a matter of fact, its waters hold 5 times as much nitrogen and 8 times as much phosphorus as they used to do, 100 years ago. Outputs from land-based activities (including sewage, industrial and municipal waste and agricultural waste) comprise about 80% of the sources of nutrients present in the water. The remaining 20% derives largely from nitrous gasses, produced with the burning of fossil fuels, traffic, industry and heating systems employment. Given the predicted spike in agricultural development in the region, the eutrophication process will surely worsen if cuts in nitrogen- and phosphorus-rich substances leaking into the Baltic Sea are not performed.

 

The Baltic bionetwork is dependent on both longterm and periodic climate changes.  Climate oscillations usually happen periodically, due to spikes in water salinity and oxygen concentration in deep Baltic water bodies. However, this process is connected to eutrophication as well. The causes are threefold:  i) the increasing saturation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, ii) the rising temperature of the atmosphere, and iii) higher dynamic forces of the atmosphere. Heightened concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere lead to acidification and a subsequent decrease in the pH of surface waters in the basin. Increased atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide and acidification of surface layers may add up on this process, leading to an increase in scales and much lower pH values than the current ones. Finally, the heating up of waters in the Baltic Sea will stimulate the growth of phytoplankton colonies, which may be connected to a further boost in the eutrophication process

 

While it is not too late to revert the process, many more “closed” basins, including lakes, may incur in the same fate of the Baltic Sea if not tended to. It is our responsibility, as a generation that is increasingly attentive towards the ecosystem, to design alternative solutions to cut the amount of phosphorus and nitrogen in the water and prevent eutrophication from destroying whole bionetworks.

8 Comments

Hyeongmin Mentor

  • Hyeongmin Mentor says :
    Hello Alice

    I really enjoyed reading your report. The way you develop your report is really interesting. In some sense, phosphorus is truly a valuable element to human society. As mentioned in the report, it is a primary material used in agricultural fertilizer. In addition to that, it is also one of the major elements in semiconductor industry, where the phones and computers come from.
    However, it seems that it is also a cause of serious marine environment pollution. I guess it's time for some alternative resources, other than the source of the pollution. I hope the revolutionary element along with technological advance come true as soon as possible.

    Thank you for the great report.
    Posted 02-12-2019 03:31

Alice Ervaz

  • Alice Ervaz says :
    Thank you everybody for your warm comments! And thank you Lisa for your insightful analysis of my articles :)
    I hope I will be able to keep impressing you with the other articles I am going to write!
    Posted 28-11-2019 00:42

Sandhya Adhikari

  • Sandhya Adhikari says :
    Hello Alice,
    I do hope you are fine there and doing great with your works,
    The way of writing and expressing of thought through your report is really so impressive,
    Thanks for your report,
    Keep writing,
    Yours,
    Sandhya
    Posted 27-11-2019 10:52

Sagar  Koirala

  • Sagar Koirala says :
    Hello Alice,
    I hope you are fine and doing good .

    Great and Very Insightful report on Eutrophication .It is an environmental issue here in Nepal as well .

    Regards,
    Sagar Koirala
    Posted 27-11-2019 01:06

Lisa Mentor

  • Lisa Mentor says :
    Hello Alice,
    this is Lisa your mentor.

    I personally am a great fan of your reports I like how you always tackle the issues that are often forgotten by many people and your writing style is amazing that it allows readers to really concentrate and feel the urgency and seriousness of the topic in matter.

    Eutrophication is indeed a serious problem that needs to be tackled. My county of Korea has once experienced a serious green tide problem in the rivers due to the eutrophication and it could be said that the entire environment surrounding the river was nearly destroyed. Obviously the marine ecosystem was destroyed but it didn't take much time for the detrimental break of the food chain to start destroying the land life in the nearby area. The harms eventually returned to us, those who have created this vicious chain of problems in the first place and the agricultural industry was highly structured. The urge and greed to produce more resulted in no production in the end.

    I think it's important that we see the chain effect that the eutrophication has and raise public awareness about it, especially of those who are engaging in agriculture for a living since they are the ones whose actions that really matter.

    Thanks for the insightful report and I really can't wait to see what you will bring for the next month's report!
    Posted 26-11-2019 14:51

Meena Pandey

  • Meena Pandey says :
    Hello Alice!!
    I hope you are fine and doing great.

    Thank you for letting us know about Marine life and biodiversity:the challenges of eutrophication in Europe.

    Keep writing and shining.

    Hope to know more from you.

    Warm regards,
    Meena
    Posted 26-11-2019 13:38

Shobha Pokhrel

  • Shobha Pokhrel says :
    Hello!!
    Hope so u are fine and doing great.
    Thanks for sharing this burning issue .

    With regards,
    Shobha
    Posted 26-11-2019 00:46

Kushal Naharki

  • Kushal Naharki says :
    Hello Alice

    I do hope that you are fine and doing great with your works.
    Thank you for your report about Marine life and biodiversity: the challenges of eutrophication in Europe

    Green Cheers from Nepal :)
    Keep writing great reports.
    We are eager to read more reports from you.

    Regards,
    Kushal Naharki

    Posted 26-11-2019 00:43

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