Scientists explore connection between phosphorus and river water quality

Lake County News –

Phosphorus is an essential nutrient for plants and animals.

However, excessive phosphorus in surface water can cause explosive growth of aquatic plants and algae.

This can lead to a variety of water-quality problems, including low dissolved oxygen concentrations, which can cause fish kills and harm other aquatic life.

Rivers connect our terrestrial landscape with downstream lakes, reservoirs, and coastal environments.

High phosphorus concentrations and associated water-quality degradation are a key water-quality concern in many of our nation’s rivers and streams.

A team of US Geological Survey scientists recently published a paper that investigates the potential sources of phosphorus that contribute to degraded river water quality.

Here’s what the lead author, Sarah M. Stackpoole, had to say about the study.

Q: What question were you trying to answer with your recent study?

Stackpoole: The link between agriculture, excess phosphorus, and excess algal growth in freshwater ecosystems is well established.

Management efforts to reduce the movement of excess agricultural phosphorus to surface waters have been in place for decades, but we have not seen widespread improvements in water quality.

This may be because the source of phosphorus leading to degraded water-quality conditions may not actually be linked to the manure and fertilizer currently being applied to nearby farms and fields.

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