Summary
Eutrophication is the process by which an entire body of water, or parts of it, becomes progressively enriched with minerals and nutrients, particularly nitrogen and phosphorus. It has also been defined as "nutrient-induced increase in phytoplankton productivity". Water bodies with very low nutrient levels are termed oligotrophic and those with moderate nutrient levels are termed mesotrophic. Advanced eutrophication may also be referred to as dystrophic and hypertrophic conditions. Eutrophication can affect freshwater or salt water systems. In freshwater ecosystems it is almost always caused by excess phosphorus. In coastal waters on the other hand, the main contributing nutrient is more likely to be nitrogen, or nitrogen and phosphorus together. This depends on the location and other factors. When occurring naturally, eutrophication is a very slow process in which nutrients, especially phosphorus compounds and organic matter, accumulate in water bodies. These nutrients derive from degradation and solution of minerals in rocks and by the effect of lichens, mosses and fungi actively scavenging nutrients from rocks. Anthropogenic or "cultural eutrophication" is often a much more rapid process in which nutrients are added to a water body from a wide variety of polluting inputs including untreated or partially treated sewage, industrial wastewater and fertilizer from farming practices. Nutrient pollution, a form of water pollution, is a primary cause of eutrophication of surface waters, in which excess nutrients, usually nitrogen or phosphorus, stimulate algal and aquatic plant growth. A common visible effect of eutrophication is algal blooms. Algal blooms can either be just a nuisance to those wanting to use the water body or become harmful algal blooms that can cause substantial ecological degradation in water bodies. This process may result in oxygen depletion of the water body after the bacterial degradation of the algae.
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