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Environmental Health - Toxic Substances



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Eutrophication - "Eutrophication is defined as an increase in the rate of supply of organic matter in an ecosystem.” - Nixon, 1995

Eutrophication - “The process by which a body of water acquires a high concentration of nutrients, especially phosphates and nitrates. These typically promote excessive growth of algae. As the algae die and decompose, high levels of organic matter and the decomposing organisms deplete the water of available oxygen, causing the death of other organisms, such as fish. Eutrophication is a natural, slow-aging process for a water body, but human activity greatly speeds up the process.” - Art, 1993

Eutrophication - “The term 'eutrophic' means well-nourished; thus, 'eutrophication' refers to natural or artificial addition of nutrients to bodies of water and to the effects of the added nutrients….When the effects are undesirable, eutrophication may be considered a form of pollution.” - National Academy of Sciences, 1969

Eutrophication – “The enrichment of bodies of fresh water by inorganic plant nutrients (e.g. nitrate, phosphate). It may occur naturally but can also be the result of human activity (cultural eutrophication from fertilizer runoff and sewage discharge) and is particularly evident in slow-moving rivers and shallow lakes … Increased sediment deposition can eventually raise the level of the lake or river bed, allowing land plants to colonize the edges, and eventually converting the area to dry land.” - Lawrence and Jackson, 1998

Eutrophic – “Waters, soils, or habitats that are high in nutrients; in aquatic systems, associated with wide swings in dissolved oxygen concentrations and frequent algal blooms.” - Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, 2000

Related Definitions



USGS Information on Eutrophication

Related Science Feature Articles

Other Information on Eutrophication


Art, H.W., 1993, Eutrophication, in Art, H.W., ed., A dictionary of ecology and environmental science (1st ed.): New York, New York, Henry Holt and Company, p. 196.

Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, 2000, Integrated assessment of hypoxia in the Northern Gulf of Mexico: National Science and Technology Council, 58 p.

Lawrence, E., Jackson, A.R.W., and Jackson, J.M., 1998, Eutrophication, in Longman Dictionary of Environmental Science: London, England, Addison Wesley Longman Limited, p. 144-145.

National Academy of Sciences, 1969, Introduction, summary, and recommendations, in Eutrophication--Causes, consequences, correctives: Washington, D.C., National Academy of Sciences, p. 3-4.

Nixon, S.W., 1995, Coastal marine eutrophication--A definition, social causes, and future concerns: Ophelia, v. 41, p. 199-219.


Disclaimer: The definitions on this page are provided for information purposes only, and do not indicate endorment by the U.S. Geological Survey.

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