How Cultural Eutrophication is Impacting Vital Natural Resources

Cultural eutrophication is an accelerated process of nutrient and sediment concentration in a body of water caused by excessive human activity. (Kaufman and Franz, 1993, G-5). Cultural eutrophication is a problems because it degrades the fitness of the water source to support life both within the source’s ecosystem, and life outside the source’s boundaries that uses the water for drinking and/or agriculture.

Examples of cultural eutrophication in the United States can be observed at Lake Erie. (Kaufman and Franz, 1993, 302). Pollutants and overuse of the water contained within Lake Erie concentrated nutrients like phosphate in the lake and started to kill the fish and other organisms in the lake. In order to combat this problem legislation passed that prohibited phosphates to be included in laundry detergent. Other tactics that were taken included: social awareness programs that encouraged more efficient agricultural irrigation practices that reduced the amount of run-off from farmlands, and programs that encouraged better, more efficient treatment of waste-waters from both agriculture and from the public.

In Europe, cultural eutrophication is also a problem. Here eutrophication can be clearly seen in the Black Sea. The process of cultural eutrophication escalated beginning in the 1960s because of intensive industrial fishing, extraction of water, and concentrated nutrients and pollutants from incoming rivers into the Black Sea. As a result of this eutrophication the Sea’s ecosystem was destabilized as predators were killed off, salinity increased, and new invasive species took over the ecosystem. (GESAMP REPORTS AD STUDIES NO. 58, 1999).

Cultural eutrophication needs to be addressed to help preserve not only vital marine ecosystems, but also to protect valuable freshwater supplies. In order to help reduce the impacts of cultural eutrophication, laws and regulations need to be passed that reduce sediments, nutrients, and other contaminants from entering freshwater supplies. This may mean prohibiting such elements as phosphates in laundry detergents, to requiring better containment of agricultural run-off and wastewater treatment. Also, marine vehicles need to be assessed to make sure they do not leak petroleum products, and that they aren’t leaking any biological materials from their cargo holds.

Protecting specific freshwater sources like the Black Sea, or Lake Erie also means that precautions need to be taken to protect tributaries and other sources of water for those systems. River use should be monitored to prevent illegal dumping, uncontrolled run-off from farms and suburban areas, and further restrictions need to be made on what can be dumped down storm drains. With these precautions, the total affect of cultural eutrophication can be reduced, and in turn help to protect the long-term fitness of freshwater sources.


Anonymous. (1999, June). “Opportunistic settlers and problems of the ctenophor Mnemiopsis leidyi invasion in the Black Sea.” GESAMP REPORTS AD STUDIES No. 58. Online version accessed 08.03.05 from

Kaufman, Donald G. and Franz, Cecilia M. (1993). Biosphere 2000�Protecting our Global Environment. Dubuque, IA: Kendal/Hunt Publishing.

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