How the use of fertilizers affects our waterways and the environment:
The initial concept of utilizing fertilizers was to maximize the profitability of agricultural yields, this was done by restoring nitrogen and phosphorus levels to the agricultural fields which then prevented the yield from declining over time. During that period of fertilizer experimentation in the 19th century, there was no afterthought about how this could negatively affect the sur
rounding environment in the future. Today, we know that these fertilizers have introduced an entirely new problem known as nutrient pollution, which has had extensive impacts on the surrounding environment and the public. The impacts of nutrient pollution on the environment include the phenomenon of eutrophication, coral reef destruction, decrease in biological diversity, and harmful algae blooms.
What is Eutrophication, and how does it contribute to Algae Blooms and dead Zones?
Eutrophication has to do with the increase of organic matter that exists in an aquatic ecosystem, caused by the excess of nutrients due to the high amounts of phosphorus and nitrogen in the water. It continues to be a growing problem in the state of Florida as it kills aquatic life and is the phenomenon that causes algae blooms, as well as dead zones.
After these harmful algae blooms form, they eventually turn into dead zones, which is when the algae in the water dies and depletes the oxygen levels in the water, killing the marine life in the water who depend on the oxygen in the water to breathe (Surrick). The low oxygen levels in the water ca
use red tide, which is just another phase for a harmful algae bloom that also affects the color of the water, turning it red.
How does this affect the diversity of the ecosystem?
The excessive amount of macronutrients (e.g.: nitrogen and phosphorus) in the water, alters the biodiversity by creating overstimulation and often mutational growth of aquatic animals and plants (Nitrogen and Water). With more marine populations declining due to the growing problem of algal blooms and dead zones, there has been a loss of diversity within these ecosystems.
How does Eutrophication affect our coral reefs?
The rise of eutrophication in our waterways and the large amounts of macronutrients leads to excess algal growth on coral reefs, which ends up creating too much crowding within the ecosystem, leading to degradation of the ecosystem (2006).
Excessive amounts of nitrogen and phosphorus in the water create these harmful algae blooms, eventually turning into dead zones when the algae dies and depletes the dissolved oxygen levels in the water, in turn, killing the marine life in the water.
Tying back this information to current events regarding legislation in Florida:
In May of 2023, four counties in the state of Florida placed a fertilizer ban from June 1st to September, which is the extent of Florida’s rainy season. Specifically, banning the use of fertilizers that contain nitrogen and/or phosphorus because of its effect on our waterways and aquatic ecosystems. In the midst of the seasonal ban in June of this year, Governor DeSantis utilized his line-item veto to suspend the seasonal fertilizer restrictions that were put in place earlier this year (Chesnes, 2023). This decision came after the public outcry and objections by environmental groups about the suspendment of the seasonal fertilizer ban.
Chesnes, M. (2023, June 16). Despite worries from environment groups, DeSantis opts to halt new fertilizer bans. Tampa Bay Times. https://www.tampabay.com/news/environment/2023/06/16/florida-fertilizer-ban-desantis-budget-water-rain-algae/#:~:text=Despite%20the%20public%20outcry%20from,and%20until%20July%201%2C%202024.
How Pollution Affects Coral Reefs. NOAA 200th. (2006, December 12). https://celebrating200years.noaa.gov/visions/coral/side.html#:~:text=These%20land%2Dbased%20sources%20of,and%20significantly%20degrading%20the%20ecosystem.
“Nitrogen and Water .” U.S. Geological Survey, 21 May 2018, www.usgs.gov/special-topics/water-science-school/science/nitrogen-and-water.Surrick, J. (n.d.).
Dead zones. Chesapeake Bay Foundation. https://www.cbf.org/issues/dead-zones/index.html#:~:text=When%20there%20are%2