Algal blooms due to nutrient enrichment from excessive geese populations and fertilization
Algal blooms in a stream due to nutrient enrichment from excessive geese populations and fertilization.

Nutrients are an important component to life and play an important role in the food web. Nutrients naturally increase in an ecosystem as organic materials break down. Plants cannot grow without nutrients. However, over-fertilizing your lawn or garden can cause problems. In the same way, excessive nutrients become detrimental to aquatic environments. 

Nutrient pollution is caused when excess nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, are introduced into aquatic ecosystems. These excess nutrients drive a process called eutrophication. Excess nitrogen and/ or phosphorus can lead to increased production of algae, resulting in algal blooms. At the very least, algal blooms can block out the sun to aquatic plants, slowing down plant growth. Over production of algae can also cause swings in pH, which describes how acidic or basic the liquid is. If algal blooms become severe, aquatic plants cannot perform photosynthesis, which can cause dissolved oxygen levels drop to the point of causing fish and other aquatic life to die. Different types of algae can produce toxins that are harmful to aquatic life, humans and pets. 

Nutrient pollution is a widespread, costly and challenging environmental problem. Excessive algae in sources of drinking water can cause increased costs for treatment, taste and odor issues, as well as disinfection byproducts.

Missouri has water quality standards, which are defined in Code of State Regulations 10 CSR 20-7.031, for nutrients and chlorophyll in lakes for protecting aquatic life. The standards are specific to nitrogen, phosphorus and chlorophyll-a. Chlorophyll-a is a photosynthetic pigment used by plants. Measuring chlorophyll-a is a fairly accurate way to measure how much algae growth is occurring in the water. These standards are set to protect aquatic life from the effects of eutrophication.

Additional Information: