The Big 6 environmental impact categories [E-BOOK]

Eutrophication Potential (EP)

Eutrophication is the enrichment of nutrients in a certain place. Eutrophication can be aquatic or terrestrial. Air pollutants, waste water and fertilization in agriculture all contribute to eutrophication.

The result in water is an accelerated algae growth, which in turn, prevents sunlight from reaching the lower depths. This leads to a decrease in photosynthesis and less oxygen production. In addition, oxygen is needed for the decomposition of dead algae. Both effects cause a decreased oxygen concentration in the water, which can eventually lead to fish dying and to anaerobic decomposition (decomposition without the presence of oxygen). Hydrogen sulphide and methane are thereby produced. This can lead, among others, to the destruction of the eco-system.

On eutrophicated soils, an increased susceptibility of plants to diseases and pests is often observed, as is a degradation of plant stability. If the nutrification level exceeds the amounts of nitrogen necessary for a maximum harvest, it can lead to an enrichment of nitrate. This can cause, by means of leaching, increased nitrate content in groundwater. Nitrate also ends up in drinking water.

Nitrate at low levels is harmless from a toxicological point of view. However, nitrite, a reac-tion product of nitrate, is toxic to humans. The causes of eutrophication are displayed in Figure A 3. The eutrophication potential is calculated in phosphate equivalents (PO4 Eq). As with acidification potential, it’s important to remember that the effects of eutrophication potential differ regionally.

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