What Is Eutrophication and Why Should It Matter More?

Posted by Ecogardens

What Is Eutrophication and Why Should It Matter More | This big word covers a very important environmental concept.


Algae blooms are a serious problem, mucking up waterways, killing fish and endangering humans. What can we do?

Red tide (not to be confused with Red Dawn, which is an awesome movie) is a phenomenon pretty much all of us have heard of.

Likewise, almost everyone has experienced a bummer of a summer day or two, in which the local lake or river was closed to swimming due to algal blooms.

If you’ve ever walked along the shore of a normally crystalline body of water, only to witness a murky green more appropriate to The Creature from the Black Lagoon than to a picnic, you know what we’re talking about.

Algae blooms, also known as algal blooms, are a serious problem these days. They deplete oxygen in the water supply, choking out the organisms that live there. Some species of algae may even produce neurotoxins, which is dangerous to fish, wildlife, other plants and even humans.

While some blooms occur naturally, much of the issue comes down to eutrophication. Today, let’s turn our attention to this critical concept so we can make a game plan to change the future and make the world a greener place.

What is Eutrophication?


What Is Eutrophication and Why Should It Matter More | This is when lots of nutrients flow into a waterway, stimulating algae growth and using up oxygen.Merriam-Webster defines eutrophication as “the process by which a body of water becomes enriched in dissolved nutrients (such as phosphates) that stimulate the growth of aquatic plant life usually resulting in the depletion of dissolved oxygen.”

If that sounds like Bad News Bears to you, it’s because it is. It won’t shock you to learn that the plants and animals in any given body of water need oxygen to survive. When they don’t have it, they’re forced either to leave or to become air-starved and die.

This is not an uncommon problem. According to the National Ocean Service, “Sixty-five percent of the estuaries and coastal waters in the contiguous U.S. that have been studied by researchers are moderately to severely degraded by excessive nutrient inputs.”

The question you’re likely asking by now is ... where are all these nutrients coming from?

Where Do the Nutrients Come From?


When we fertilize a golf course or even a simple, small, residential lawn, we are using nutrients to make plants grow. Nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium and other minerals encourage plants to put on greenery. In the case of bermudagrass, green is a good thing (arguably, since lawns are not our favorite way to go green).

What we often don’t take into account is that those nutrients don’t just stay put. They wash away in rainstorms and with snowmelt, ending up in streams and waterways – where they, you guessed it, fertilize the native plant life. (Fertilization also occurs when sewage overflows its containment systems and gets into waterways.)

Algae, for one, is very responsive to nutrient inputs. It can explode quickly, setting off a chain reaction of reproduction:

“As more algae and plants grow, others die,” ScienceDaily explains. “This dead organic matter becomes food for bacteria that decompose it. With more food available, the bacteria increase in number and use up the dissolved oxygen in the water. When the dissolved oxygen content decreases, many fish and aquatic insects cannot survive. This results in a dead area.”

But wait ... there’s more.

Why Should We Be More Concerned?


What Is Eutrophication and Why Should It Matter More | We should care about eutrophication because the health of our waterways depends on stopping it.

Choking out fish and wildlife isn’t the only potential harm from eutrophication. The list of reasons is pretty extensive:

  • It acidifies the water
  • This slows down the growth of shellfish and fish
  • It may prevent shell formation on mollusks
  • It reduces the amount of catch from fisheries, raising seafood prices and endangering aquatic populations
  • It endangers animals and humans who live on land

... and you get pictures that look like this. If that appears more than a little apocalyptic to you, you’re in good company.

What Can We Do to Minimize Human Impact on Waterways?


What Is Eutrophication and Why Should It Matter More | We should reduce nutrient input use and back programs to increase water purification.Luckily, there are answers. First, there’s the obvious: stop using nitrogen and other chemical fertilizers on lawns and in gardens and devote your landscape to native varieties. Native plants do not require this kind of intensive cultivation, they look beautiful, and you have lots of options today. Plus, they bring a ton of their own benefits to the table.

Second, consider installing a Floating Wetland. These little workhorses have proven to remove
contaminants year-round and are a long-term (over 60 years), natural and sustainable solution to
cleaning up and preventing pollution of water bodies.

Over 15 years of data and thousands of field studies have proven Floating Wetlands to be efficient at
removing all sorts of the problems associated with eutrophication - ammonia, nitrate, phosphorous, TSS,
Copper and Zinc. And the impressive list of accomplishments keeps piling up.

Floating Wetlands are perfect for wastewater lagoons, shoreline protection, coastal restoration,
stewardship of lakes and ponds (let’s grow fish instead of algae!) and if that isn’t enough, they are a
total-package solution to overall watershed nutrient management, effectively processing and removing
nutrients from both urban and agricultural runoff.

Phew! If you’re as impressed with how much a Floating Wetland can do, join the club!

Interested in learning more about how this sustainable, green solution can fit your needs? We've got you covered.

Schedule a free 30-minute consultation with our team (over a Zoom!) and we'll discuss your unique property, your options, specific do's and don'ts for incorporating a Floating Wetland into your environment, and more. Together, let’s build an island.


Topics: Stewardship, Floating Wetlands

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