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The Eutrophication of Global Freshwater Habitats as an effect of Industrialization and Human Activity: The Critical Role of Nitrogen and Phosphorus Levels in Limnoeutrophication


Allegheny College Department of Biology and Biogeochemistry-Biochemistry


Written by: Albrando Lorenzo Lucino Jr, B.S, B.A



Introduction:
   The status of lakes throughout the world has been substantially affected by the onslaught of invasive human activity that has resulted in eutrophication (Cooke et al, 32) of freshwater habitats, particularly lakes and ponds (Cole, 320-322; Burgis and Troughton, 186-187; Somlyody and Straten, 3-4; Brock, 47). Numerous studies have procured that the specific limiting nutrients in eutrophic lakes throughout the world are the high levels of Phosphorus and Nitrogen that are given off from the sewage effluents of erected human housings, agricultural wastes from fertilizers, industrial wastes and increased water runoff by the effects of deforestation, atmospheric pollution and groundwater infiltration (Cole, 18; Apelin et al, 37-38; Stoermer and Smol, 128-129; Markham, 52, 59, 61,109; Wood and Porro, 163; McMartin, 154-157; Holdgate 88 ).
Nutrient loading of Phosphorus and Nitrogen in specific lakes and ponds have been quite disastrous for owners in that such occurrence results in the increase of macrophytes and other planktonic organisms such as dinoflagellates or commonly know as Cyanophyta, which are dominant in Phosphorus limited areas; some species of Nostacales, which has nitrogen fixing capabilities, become dominant if reduced Nitrogen becomes a limiting factor (Sommer, 58).
One other effect of increased nutrient loading in lakes that are flanked by increased human activity is the degradation in water quality by an increase in algal biomass, discoloration and floating debris, which become an aesthetic problem for summer resorts that depend much on lake clarity(Somlyody and Straten, 4-5; Becker and Neitzel, 190-191; Cole, 321). Additionally, eutrophic freshwaters with persistent algal biomass and debris become a health hazard for people whose living depends on a particular water body (Flemer, 144-149; Hsiang-Te and Long-Gen, 45-50); this will eventually lead to restrictions on water use such as drinking water, fish kills and odor. Another indicator of eutrophication in a freshwater habitat would be the Secchi disk visibility of particular lakes (Brock, 204-206, Schindler, 1149-1152; Smith, 1101-1112); in clean and pristine lakes that are termed oligotrophic, Secchi disk visibility is high due to the considerable low algal biomass; however in eutrophic lakes where there is a considerable increase in algal biomass, the Secchi disk visibility is significantly lower than that of oligotrophic lakes. Thus an excessive eutrophication problem in a particular resort with limited recreational space becomes a financial problem (Somlyody and Straten, 4-6).
   These specific indicators are effective in deducing whether or not a particular freshwater habitat is eutrophic or oligotrophic. Considering the fact that Phosphorus is critical for the growth of algal biomass and that varying Nitrogen levels are responsible for the presence of nitrogen fixing taxa; these two limiting factors are pivotal for understanding the eutrophication processes of lakes and other freshwater habitats. The comprehension of the paleolimnology of freshwater habitats is essential in that one can analyze the Phosphorus to Nitrogen levels during the primordial epoch before the advent of human invasive presence and compare those with levels during the era of human colonization and industrialization (Aplin et al, 59-61). The collection of these data provides a better understanding of how industrialization and human activity in different regions of the globe affects the surrounding freshwater habitat via eutrophication.

Background Information:
   The problems that come with the advent of heavy human colonization near lake areas and the rise of industrialization has been a contributing factor to the quality of lakes in the world (Markham, 13). Ranging from the classical 18th century Great Industrial Revolution in Europe and later reverberating the same scheme in newly formed independent states in North America, Asia, Latin America and Africa (Hood and Porro, 299-300; Magoc, 35-38).
   To fully understand the magnamity of the situation, it’s necessary to analyze the situation prior to the arrival of man in certain fresh water habitats, particularly in North America (Burgis and Morris, 40). In one analysis of the paleolimnologic implications Linsley Pond and surrounding water beds in New England was that after the retreat of Pleistocene ice, these lakes were primarily oligotrophic for a short time before its phase towards eutrophy. This particular stage in the two lakes persisted in dynamic equilibrium for a millennia or so. However when one compares Linsley Lake with Potato Lake in Arizona, the main difference would be Potato Lake’s response to ameliorating climate in depositing organic oozes typical of eutrophy. In some data (Cole, 15-17), there was an increase in 60% ignition loss, yet a sudden decline in organic percentage; which correlates with the increased erosion of the drainage basin’s inorganic content in response to human agriculture and logging activities (Cole, 17).
   One thing that both Potato Lake and Linsley Pond both share, despite their geographic distance was that there was for a time, a long period of equilibrium in lake water. The nutrients entering the then undisturbed lakes received from yearly runoffs; which correlates with constant annual production and the bottom deposit’s constant accumulation, showcasing an example of trophic equilibrium (Cole, 18), which reflects the status of the entire edaphic-climatic-morphologic system (Hutchinson, 17-26).
   Changes in the trophic levels of these two specific lakes occurred right after the arrival and the establishment of European settlers in North America. Such activities that can be accountable for these changes would be forest cutting, agriculture; such disturbance resulted in increased nutrient input in the lakes (Bormann et al, 1969). Studies also showed that even in Arizona, the loss of natural shrubby cover, called chaparral, to grass resulted in edaphic nutrient erosion, in particular nitrate, to the surrounding freshwater watershed. This of course is an effect of mass human agriculture (Longstreth, 58).
Such examples of increased nutrient loading and the historical reasoning for such Phosphorus and Nitrogen increase is universal as the same occurrence happened in Japan starting in the Meiji Restoration epoch, which occurred in the late 19th century after the deposition of the last Tokugawa Shogunate and the rise of the Imperial Privy Council as well as the immediate industrial revolution that took hold of Japan during its industrialization (Stearns, 116-117,121,126; Apelin et al, 112). Such consequences of excessive human development and industrialization has been quite observed in other states in Asia that industrialized quite immediately after independency such as the People’s Republic of China, South Korea, the Philippines, The Federation of Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, and India (McNeill and Dunn, 175, 189). Other regions of the world that experienced the same effects as those observed in North American as well as European industrialization were the states of South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Liberia, Israel, Brazil, Mexico and Chile to name a few (Wood and Porro, 10-12).
Specific examples of how industrialization and excessive human activities have resulted in increased nutrient loading such as Nitrogen and Phosphorus levels in fresh water bodies and thus titillated eutrophy is seen in Australia’s Lake Burragorang. What happened in the lake was that there was a great fire near the Blue Mountains in 1968 and showed that there was increased Phosphorus being washed into the reservoir, which was responsible for algal blooms, which then tainted and affected water supplies for the surrounding community around the lake (Aplin et al, 58).
Additionally, there has been other problems in Australia pertaining to agricultural and pastoral use, which has observed in the state of New South Wales in which large amounts of fertilizers that were used on crops reached streams and lakes, where it aids in eutrophication. In one specific example, a toxic blue green algae bloom of cyanobacteria, caused by high amounts of phosphorus, polluted over 1000km of the Darling River in New South Wales (Aplin et al, 58-59). Another example of eutrophication via industrial, commercial and agricultural use would be in Shanghai’s Dianshan Lake, which is a major drinking water source as well as subsistence supplier of fish for the people in that region. Due to the heavy deforestation around Dianshan Lake during the 1970s as well as the heavy industrialization occurring now, there has been an observable increase in Phosphorus levels in the lake, which greatly contributed to the eutrophication of Dianshan Lake (Hsiang-Te and Long-Gen, 45-50).

The Nature of Phosphorus and Nitrogen:

   Phosphorus is critical to all life, as it is universally observed in ATP processes (Adenosine triphosphate)as carrier of energy and the fact that nucleotides have phosphate groups and thus illustrates how nucleic acids as well as all living things’ need for phosphorus (Welch, 186,64-65). Phosphorus is also a scarce element as compared to other principal atoms within living organisms such as carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen and sulfur. An example of Phosphorus (Cole, 320-322) indicative nature in bringing life within freshwater habitat via the eutrophication process is how the turnover rates reflect the amount of phosphate in comparison to algal demand. However, due to increased human activity, the nature of Phosphorus has resulted in ‘over enrichment’ of lakes so to say via the process of Eutrophication, which occurs when sewage and other pollutants associated with human industrialization and activity bring excess amount of phosphorus back to the lakes, thus adversely increasing algal growth, and deoxygenating the fresh water region directly.
   Nitrogen is yet another important factor that is indicative of eutrophication in that its presence is correlated with high percentages of nitrogen fixing bacteria such as Rhizobium (Cole, 246), which are able to use nitrogenase, which reduces nitrogen into an ammonium ion, which then is then used by photosynthetic primary producers. Studies have recorded that O. rubescens are pivotal in foretelling whether or not a freshwater habitat is going through eutrophication, because the species of nitrogen limited and does not appear in lakes until Nitrogen content does arise (Cole 246; Smith, 1101-1112).

Nitrogen Fixation by Planktonic organisms

   Nitrogen fixation rates vary from different trophic levels; in particular, nitrogen fixation is low in oligotrophic as well as mesotrophic lakes and high in eutrophic lakes (Wetzel and Likens, 89). Usually, nitrogen fixation of planktonic organisms in oligotrophic lakes range from around <0.3 mg N m-2 yr-1 whereas in mesotrophic lakes the ranges are 13-94 mg N m-2 yr-1 and rather high in eutrophic lakes at around 200 mg N m-3 yr-1 (Howarth et al, 669-667). From readings in specific papers, one is able to grasp that nitrogen fixation by plankton in eutrophic lakes such as found in South Windermere, Lake Erie, Green Bay, Bay of Quinte, Lake Erken, Bivin’s Arm, Lake Mendota, Sodra Bergundasjon, Lake Mize, Clear Lake, Lake George and Rietvlei Dam, is caused by blue-green algae called cyanobacteria instead of heterotrophic bacteria as most thought (Howarth et al, 669-667; Aplin et al, 129-130; Schindler, 1149-1152). The rates of fixation are also associated with nitrogen fixing cyanobacteria’s biomass (Sommer, 89). Nitrogen fixation in eutrophic waters is definitely critical and can definitely be seen as a major limiting factor because planktonic form of nitrogen fixation  is responsible for about 6-82% of total nitrogen fixed in many eutrophic lakes such as Windermere Lake in the U.K, Lake Erie in the Pennsylvania, Newman’s Lake in Florida, Green Bay Lake in Michigan, Bay of Quinte in Ontario, Lake Erken in Sweden, Bivin’s Arm in Florida, Lake Mendota in Wisconsin, Lake Valencia in Venezuela, Lake 885 in Manitoba, Sodra Bergundasjon in Sweden, Lake Mize in Florida, Clear Lake in California, Lake George in Uganda and Rietvlei Dam in South Africa (Howarth et al, 669-687, Schindler, 1149-1152). The rate of planktonic nitrogen fixation in different trophic levels such as those found in oligotrophic lakes and mesotrophic lakes was significantly lower than those in eutrophic lakes; such that it rate of nitrogen fixation was less than 1%.
   The increased growth of many different kinds of phytoplankton can be limited by the varying levels of nitrogen, or when nitrogen is specifically low compared to phosphorus levels. The anatomy of this consequence is that a significant decrease in nitrogen or the low presence of nitrogen will result in cyanobacerial nitrogen fixers hailing supreme in that particular freshwater habitat; however if nitrogen levels are quite high, then nitrogen fixers wouldn’t be the dominate species as compared to nitrogen limited plankton such as Rhodopseudomonas (Vitousek and Howarth, 87-115; Hsiang-Te and Long-Gen, 45-50; Flemer, 144-149).

Phosphorus and Phytoplankton Production
   The rather popular indicator of lake water eutrophication would be the level of phosphorus input into lakes. One way to relate phytoplankton crop and the amount of phosphorus input and water renewal is the use of the following equations:
1) C*c= IC   and
     V0


2) C*c = MC + IC (t)
                VL + V0 (t)
For the first equation, the C*c stands for the steady state concentration of chemical within the lake, the IC stands for the amount of entering chemical and V0  stands for volume outflow. For the second equation, the C*c stands for the steady state concentration of chemical within the lake as in the first equation. The Mc stands for the chemical mass in the beginning period. IC stands for the amount of entering chemical and VL stands for lake volume; t stands for period of time (Schindler, 478-486).
   Now in steady and perfect conditions both equations should have similar results; and these equations should be tested as a way study lakes with increasing or decreasing levels of nutrients and is a great way to find out if there is some amiable correlation between Phosphorus increase and phytoplankton production (Schindler, 478-486; Schindler, 260-262).

Nitrogen and Phosphorus dependence of Algal Biomass and Liebig’s Law of the Minimum or Limiting Factors
   From the results of certain limnologists (Smith, 1101-1112) there seems to have been an understanding that the frequency of total nitrogen can affected and thereby influence chlorophyll concentration in lakes, even in lakes where Phosphorus was considered limiting; specifically at a statistical ratio of total nitrogen to total Phosphorus at >10-17. To explain this so called dual dependence of algal biomass, its best to understand the function of µ, day-1, which stands for algal steady growth state. One way to understand this dependence would be through the following equation:
                 Âµ   = 1- kqL
                µm            QL

The above equation will explain the dependence of algal growth rate on internal concentrations of nutrients. The QL stands for the cellular concentration of limiting nutrients, µm stands for maximum growth rate when Q is infinite, and kql is the minimum cellular amount necessary for proceeding growth (Smith, 1101-1112). In later studies, it was determined that growth was affected by a nutrient in shortest supply, which happens to comply with Liepig’s Law of the minimum or limiting. One way to find this would be to determine the optimal nutrient ration, where a change from limitation by one nutrient to another happens (Flemer, 144-149). To understand this concept we use the equation:
? = kq1
       Kq2
The concept of ? is the crossing point in which optimal N: P switches from nitrogen limitation to phosphorus limitation happens. It’s indicative to keep in consideration that during nitrogen limitation, the NP ration is < 20 and during Phosphorus limitation, NP ratio is around > 20 (Flemer, 144-149; Smith 1101-1112). In the studies made by Val smith, he notices that the N: P ratios on algal biomass are the results of algal specie’s nutrient needs (Smith, 1101-1112).
   Liebig’s Law of the Minimum or Limiting correlates with the said equations and relationships because Liepig’s Law also states that in steady state condition, the imperative material available in amounts closely reaching critical minimum needed will be the limiting (Flemer, 144-149).




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Eutrophic in Global Lakes

   Throughout the entirety of this paper, we discussed the specific reasons for the cause of nitrogen limited taxa as well as nitrogen fixing taxa, the cause of the growth of phosphorus dependent plankton, the specific reasons for such growth and indices of human activity that correlated with lake eutrophication in the some lakes in the United States, Australia, China, and other states in the world. The necessity to understand the amount of eutrophic lakes there are in the world and in specific parts of the world is indicative to understanding how invasive human development of agriculture, industrial establishments as well as relative human waste effluents (Corson, 267,245-246) has affected lakes as a whole, not just as an individual body.
Currently, the major water beds in the world that are being affected by increase human activity would be The Middle Shannon River in Ireland, Torridge Rive in England, Loire-Allier Rivers in France, Garonne River in France, Camargue River in France, Mira River in Portugal, Gauadiana River in Spain, Ebro River delta in Spain, Oostvaardersplassen River in The Netherlands, Texel basin in The Netherlands, Lower Rhine Delta in The Netherlands, Lake Glomso in Denmark, Novogorod in Russia, Danube River Delta, Volga River Delta, Okavango Delta in Bostwana, Lake Naivasha in Kenya, Lake Edward and George (Beadle, 175), Siwalik Wetlands in India, Bharatpur River in India, Mai Pokhari Wetlands in Nepal, Betwa Basin in India, Rihand River in India, Manipur River in India, Tian Shan in China, Qinghai Hu River in China, the Mekong River Delta in Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam, THE Swan River in Australia, Louyuan River in China, Zenhai River in China, Tai Hu River in China, Qidong River in China, Sheyang River in China, Guanyun River in China, Lianyungang River in China, and Lake Biwa in Japan (Mitsch)

Conclusion
Both Nitrogen and Phosphorus are critical in understanding the growth in biomass within freshwater habitats. These specific indicators are effective in deducing whether or not a particular freshwater habitat is eutrophic or oligotrophic. Considering the fact that Phosphorus is critical for the growth of algal biomass and that varying Nitrogen levels are responsible for the presence of nitrogen fixing taxa; these two limiting factors are pivotal for understanding the eutrophication processes of lakes and other freshwater habitats. The comprehension of the paleolimnology of freshwater habitats is essential in that one can analyze the Phosphorus to Nitrogen levels during the primordial epoch before the advent of human invasive presence and compare those with levels during the era of human colonization and industrialization (Aplin et al, 59-61). The collection of these data provides a better understanding of how industrialization and human activity in different regions of the globe affects the surrounding freshwater habitat via eutrophication.



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