NOAA has released a comprehensive assessment of nutrient pollution that clearly indicates a connection between upstream activities and coastal ecosystem health. The report, Effects of Nutrient Enrichment in the Nation's Estuaries: A Decade of Change, examines conditions in 141 U.S. estuaries, and discusses how and why conditions changed between the early 1990s and early 2000s. Eutrophication is caused by excess nutrients in the water, which can result in increased blooms of algae, decreased dissolved oxygen, and loss of seagrasses and other important habitat for marine life.
Of the 99 estuaries with adequate data for evaluation, 64 estuaries had moderate to high level nutrient related impacts. The Mid-Atlantic region, from Cape Cod to the Chesapeake Bay, is the most impaired. The report predicts that conditions in 65 percent of the nation's estuaries are likely to worsen in the next decade, while only 20 percent will improve. The remaining 15 percent will remain unchanged. The report's authors did point to several cases where there is cause for optimism that aggressive management can reverse the trend (e.g., the Tampa Bay estuary). Overall, the report's findings highlight the need for increased federal, state, local and industry partnerships to find well-balanced solutions that provide measurable benefits to all involved.
This report was completed in partnership with the University of Maryland, with input from a wide array of state, federal, non-governmental, and academic partners.
For more information, read the NOAA news story.