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This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 22 No. 3, p. 402-408
    Received: June 19, 1992

    * Corresponding author(s):


Biological Effects of Agriculturally Derived Surface Water Pollutants on Aquatic Systems—A Review

  1. C. M. Cooper *
  1. USDA-ARS, National Sedimentation Laboratory, P.O. Box 1157, Oxford, MS 38655.



Environmental manipulations and other human activities are major causes of stress on natural ecosystems. Of the many sources of surface water pollutants, agricultural activities have been identified as major contributors to environmental stress, which affects all ecosystem components. In water, agricultural contaminants are most noticeable when they produce immediate, dramatic toxic effects on aquatic life although more subtle, sublethal chronic effects may be just as damaging over long periods. Aquatic systems have the ability to recover from contaminant damage if not seriously overloaded with irreversible pollutants. Thus, contaminant loading level is as important as type of pollutant. Although suspended sediment represents the largest volume of aquatic contaminant, pesticides, nutrients, and organic enrichment are also major stressors of aquatic life. Stream corridor habitat traps and processes contaminants. Loss of buffering habitat, including riparian zones, accelerates effects of pollutants and should be considered when assessing damage to aquatic life. Protection of habitat is the single most effective means of conserving biological diversity. Current available management practices and promising new technology are providing solutions to many contaminant-related problems in aquatic systems.

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