One of the sources is untreated sewage water not forgetting discharge of nitrates from farming industries.
What is phosphates?
Phosphorus has a number of indispensable biochemical roles and is an essential element for growth in all organisms, being a component of nucleic acids such as DNA.
However, phosphorus is a scarce element in the Earth's crust and natural mobilization of phosphorus from rocks is slow.
Its compounds are relatively insoluble, there is no reservoir of gaseous phosphorus compounds available in the atmosphere (as there is for carbon and nitrogen), and phosphorus is also readily and rapidly transformed into insoluble forms that are unavailable to plants. This tends to make phosphorus generally unavailable for plant growth. In natural systems, phosphorus is more likely to be the growth-limiting nutrient.
Human activities, notably the mining of phosphate-rich rocks and their chemical transformation into fertilizer, have increased rates of mobilization of phosphorus enormously.
A total of 12 × 1012 g P yr−1 are mined from rock deposits. This is six times the estimated rate at which phosphorus is locked up in the ocean sediments from which the rocks are formed. The global phosphorus cycle is therefore being unbalanced by human activities, with soils and water bodies becoming increasingly phosphorus-rich. Eutrophication produces changes in the concentrations of phosphorus in all compartments of the phosphorus cycle.
Once in rivers, retention times for phosphorus may be short, as it is carried downstream either in soluble form or as suspended sediment. Algal blooms are therefore less likely to occur in moving waters than in still systems. In the latter, there is more time for the phosphorus in enriched sediments to be released in an ‘available’ form, increasing the concentration of soluble reactive phosphorus (SRP), and thus affecting primary production.
Nearly 80% of the atmosphere is nitrogen. Despite the huge supply potentially available, nitrogen gas is directly available as a nutrient to only a few organisms.
The majority of organisms cannot utilize gaseous nitrogen as it is very unreactive and only a limited number of bacterial species have evolved an enzyme capable of cleaving the molecule. Once ‘fixed’ by these bacteria into an organic form, the nitrogen enters the active part of the nitrogen cycle. As the bacteria or the tissues of their mutualistic hosts die, the nitrogen is released in an available form such as nitrate or ammonium ions - a result of the decay process.
The high temperatures generated during electrical storms can ‘fix’ atmospheric nitrogen as nitric oxide (NO). Further oxidation to nitric acid within the atmosphere, and scavenging by rainfall, provides an additional natural source of nitrate to terrestrial ecosystems. Nitrates and ammonium compounds are very soluble and are hence readily transported into waterways.
Nitrogen is only likely to become the main growth-limiting nutrient in aquatic systems where rocks are particularly phosphate-rich or where artificial phosphate enrichment has occurred.
However, nitrogen is more likely to be the limiting nutrient in terrestrial ecosystems, where soils can typically retain phosphorus while nitrogen is leached away.
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