Eutrophication: impacts of excess nutrient inputs on freshwater, marine, and terrestrial ecosystems

Environ Pollut. 1999;100(1-3):179-96. doi: 10.1016/s0269-7491(99)00091-3.


In the mid-1800s, the agricultural chemist Justus von Liebig demonstrated strong positive relationships between soil nutrient supplies and the growth yields of terrestrial plants, and it has since been found that freshwater and marine plants are equally responsive to nutrient inputs. Anthropogenic inputs of nutrients to the Earth's surface and atmosphere have increased greatly during the past two centuries. This nutrient enrichment, or eutrophication, can lead to highly undesirable changes in ecosystem structure and function, however. In this paper we briefly review the process, the impacts, and the potential management of cultural eutrophication in freshwater, marine, and terrestrial ecosystems. We present two brief case studies (one freshwater and one marine) demonstrating that nutrient loading restriction is the essential cornerstone of aquatic eutrophication control. In addition, we present results of a preliminary statistical analysis that is consistent with the hypothesis that anthropogenic emissions of oxidized nitrogen could be influencing atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide via nitrogen stimulation of global primary production.