How do Excess Nutrients Harm the Chesapeake Bay?
Excess amounts of nutrients are the most extensive pollution problem affecting the Chesapeake Bay. Just as nutrient fertilizers are used to promote plant growth on our lawns and farm fields, nutrients in streams and the Bay encourage the growth of aquatic plants. Aquatic plants can be one of two major forms:
Although some aquatic plants are beneficial and provide food, oxygen, and habitat, excessive nutrients may result in thick growths of aquatic plants (especially algae) that contribute to an unhealthy environment.
The most important nutrients affecting aquatic plant growth are nitrogen and phosphorus. Plant and animal matter (including animal and human waste), fertilizer, and even car and power plant exhaust, all contain nutrients. When these nutrient sources are not controlled, excess nutrients find their way into the groundwater, creeks, rivers, and eventually the Bay.
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Illustration of the trajectories for both a
degraded eutrophic system