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Preface: ‘Eutrophication’ issue of Biogeochemistry
Suzanne Bricker Michelle Devlin
Received: 17 August 2011 / Accepted: 18 August 2011 / Published online: 22 September 2011
ÓUS Government 2011
There are seven papers in this special issue of
Biogeochemistry that are based on presentations
made at a symposium on ‘Eutrophication and Water
Management—International Comparisons of Water
Quality Challenges and Policy’ as part of the ASLO
Aquatic Sciences Meeting held January 25–30, 2009
in Nice, France, with one additional paper on the
same topic from general submissions to the journal.
There were an additional eight papers and three
posters that were presented with the intent of sharing
methods, information and management successes on
an international basis.
Eutrophication is recognized as a global issue that
has important social and economic impacts in addi-
tion to the well known ecological impacts. Recent
decades have witnessed numerous legislative initia-
tives worldwide (e.g. US Clean Water Act and
Harmful Algal Bloom and Hypoxia Research and
Control Act, EU Water Framework Directive and
Marine Strategy Framework Directive, PRC
Marine Environmental Protection Law and Law on
Prevention and Control of Water Pollution, AU
Oceans Policy Act and Environment Protection and
Biodiversity Conservation Act, etc.) that require
monitoring, assessment and management of nutrient
related problems in coastal and marine waters.
Monitoring, assessment and research during the past
two decades has increased our understanding of
causes and consequences of anthropogenic nutrient
inputs to coastal water bodies, however, the com-
plexity and challenges we face in our efforts to
manage this issue have also been highlighted. While
there have been some hopeful signs of improvement
in some water bodies, in many, conditions remain the
same or have worsened with time based on measures
and methods presently in use. Indeed, the appropriate
methods for accurate measurement of the impacts and
magnitude of eutrophication are still being debated
and developed and will likely continue to be as we
continue to learn about and understand the subtleties
of nutrient impacts. It is our hope that this will also
contribute to development of a greater capability to
reduce eutrophication related problems.
The papers included in this issue focus on monitor-
ing, assessment, and research studies designed to
improve existing methods, and thus our ability to accu-
rately measure eutrophication impacts, leading to
management success. The study areas range from a
freshwater lake in the French Alps and an urban riverine
watershed in the US, to estuaries in theBasque region of
Spain and England and Wales, a lagoon in Portugal, the
Baltic Sea and the Great Barrier Reef of Australia. The
S. Bricker (&)
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration,
Center for Coastal Monitoring and Assessment, 1305 East
West Highway, Silver Spring, MD, USA
M. Devlin
Catchment to Reef Research Group, Australian Center for
Tropical Freshwater Research, James Cook University,
Townsville, QLD, Australia
Biogeochemistry (2011) 106:135–136
DOI 10.1007/s10533-011-9646-3
breadth of the locations, water body types and specific
topics of these studies speak to the global nature of this
problem as well as the interest in finding solutions.
We would like to acknowledge and thank all
session participants for their contributions. In addi-
tion we owe a great debt to the manuscript reviewers
for their thoughtful and constructive comments.
Finally, we would like to thank Katja Lajtha for
giving us the opportunity to publish this collection of
papers, and Ayrene Dialogo for her guidance in
preparing this special issue.
136 Biogeochemistry (2011) 106:135–136
The natural aging process of Chesapeake Bay and its tributary estuaries has been accelerated by human activities around the shoreline and within the watershed, increasing sediment and nutrient loads delivered to the bay. Riverine nutrients cause algal growth in the bay leading to reductions in light penetration with consequent declines in sea grass growth, smothering of bottom-dwelling organisms, and decreases in bottom-water dissolved oxygen as algal blooms decay. Historically, bay waters were filtered by oysters, but declines in oyster populations from overfishing and disease have led to higher concentrations of fine-sediment particles and phytoplankton in the water column. Assessments of water and biological resource quality in Chesapeake Bay and tributaries, such as the Potomac River, show a continual degraded state. In this paper, we pay tribute to Owen Bricker’s comprehensive, holistic scientific perspective using an approach that examines the connection between watershed and estuary. We evaluated nitrogen inputs from Potomac River headwaters, nutrient-related conditions within the estuary, and considered the use of shellfish aquaculture as an in-the-water nutrient management measure. Data from headwaters, nontidal, and estuarine portions of the Potomac River watershed and estuary were analyzed to examine the contribution from different parts of the watershed to total nitrogen loads to the estuary. An eutrophication model was applied to these data to evaluate eutrophication status and changes since the early 1990s and for comparison to regional and national conditions. A farm-scale aquaculture model was applied and results scaled to the estuary to determine the potential for shellfish (oyster) aquaculture to mediate eutrophication impacts. Results showed that (1) the contribution to nitrogen loads from headwater streams is small (about 2 %) of total inputs to the Potomac River Estuary; (2) eutrophic conditions in the Potomac River Estuary have improved in the upper estuary since the early 1990s, but have worsened in the lower estuary. The overall system-wide eutrophication impact is high, despite a decrease in nitrogen loads from the upper basin and declining surface water nitrate nitrogen concentrations over that period; (3) eutrophic conditions in the Potomac River Estuary are representative of Chesapeake Bay region and other US estuaries; moderate to high levels of nutrient-related degradation occur in about 65 % of US estuaries, particularly river-dominated low-flow systems such as the Potomac River Estuary; and (4) shellfish (oyster) aquaculture could remove eutrophication impacts directly from the estuary through harvest but should be considered a complement—not a substitute—for land-based measures. The total nitrogen load could be removed if 40 % of the Potomac River Estuary bottom was in shellfish cultivation; a combination of aquaculture and restoration of oyster reefs may provide larger benefits.
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