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Surplus Nutrients Polluting Chesapeake Bay

The Chesapeake Bay is surrounded by the states of Maryland and Virginia. The bay is a mix of saltwater from the Atlantic Ocean and freshwater from rivers, streams and groundwater. This area is called home by more than 17 million people.

The many rivers of the Chesapeake Bay provide a habitat for numerous species of fish, waterfowl, crabs and sea turtles. Fish depend on oxygen in the water for survival and feed on plankton. Larger fish often feed on smaller fish. Waterfowl depend on bay grasses, seeds, small fish and other small aquatic animals for food.

Underwater aquatic vegetation requires sunlight, which is often blocked by an over abundance of algae blooms. Bay grasses are an important factor in the ecosystem. The grasses reduce erosion and oxygenate the water. Nutrient pollution is absorbed by the grasses effectively filtering the nutrients from the water.

Fertilizers and pesticides for crops wind up in the bay. Farms are necessary to provide food. While many farmers are halting the use of pesticides, there is still widespread overuse of pesticides and fertilizers. Researchers believe that managing the use of fertilizer, planting winter cover crops and stopping cattle from utilizing streams and rivers will decrease nutrient pollutants resulting in less algae and a cleaner habitat for fish and waterfowl.

Emissions released into the air by motor vehicles and power plants pollute the Chesapeake Bay. Excessive nutrients feed algae located in the rivers of the Chesapeake Bay. Algae thrives on nitrogen and phosphorous. Decaying algae diminishes the amount of oxygen in the water. Sediment can dirty the water and cause shellfish to suffocate.

Nitrogen and other chemical pollutants are harmful to plants, fish and waterfowl. The preservation of surrounding forests and wetlands will assure chemicals and runoff is filtered. Reducing emissions from factories and automobiles is an important step to saving all our nation’s waterways for future generations.

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