Eutrophi-what? Eutrophication

Hi all.

Okay. This is one of my favorite topics. Not because it is positive, but because not many people know about eutrophication.

In simplest terms, eutrophication is when bodies of water fill up with excess nutrients and minerals. This might sound great at first- what’s wrong with more nutrients, right?

However, plant life (algae) overgrows to extremes. This algae buildup is referred to as an “algal bloom” and is a seriously thick layer of algae. The algae not only blocks vital sunlight from entering to the underside of the water, but it also sucks up all of the oxygen in the water. Without oxygen, a “hypoxic” environment is created, and life cannot survive. Furthermore, drinking water quality is at risk. Yikes.

This picture is a modest example of algal blooms due to nutrient input via the conventional agriculture and fertilizer industries.

How do all these nutrients end up in the water? Well, mainly from fertilizers and heavy tillage which causes erosion.

When soil is tilled (and in conventional ag it is tilled extensively) the soil becomes weak and subject to the elements. Add fertilizer to the soil, and when wind or rain occurs, that soil and fertilizer flows right into bodies of water with ease. Conventional farmers often account for this erosion and add even MORE fertilizer to their land so that the extra that does not erode into water bodies will stay on their land.

Not only is this an issue for our soil reserves, but this is exactly what causes eutrophication aka dead zones in the water!

So, what can we do? For one, stop using chemical fertilizers on your own land. Opt instead for building your own nutrient dense compost, or heck, buy some cows, chickens, pigs, sheep, goats or whatever else and use the dung for nutrients! This in turn will also help build the soil and anchor it in its place.

Speaking of which, to stop erosion, you can plant native species that are adept to the conditions of your environment. Consider plants with exceptional root systems that work as an anchor on the soil. And, as always, contact your state and local representative and urge them to support policy against heavy fertilizer usage.

Clearly, I could talk about this forever! But to keep this short and sweet, I’ll end this here and leave some resources for you to check out down below.

Before we go, what are your thoughts on this? Have you experienced eutrophication in your area? Let us know in the comments!

In Soil We Trust,

Tiffany

Resources

National Ocean Service: What is Eutrophication?

MDPI Open Access Journals: Agriculture and Eutrophication. Where do we go from here?

Science Direct: Eutrophication

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