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This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 30 No. 2, p. 303-320
    Received: July 14, 2000

    * Corresponding author(s): boesch@ca.umces.edu


Chesapeake Bay Eutrophication

  1. Donald F. Boesch *a,
  2. Russell B. Brinsfieldb and
  3. Robert E. Magnienc
  1. a University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, P.O. Box 775, Cambridge, MD 21613
    b College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of Maryland, Queenstown, MD 21658
    c Maryland Department of Natural Resources, 580 Taylor Avenue, Annapolis, MD 21401


Chesapeake Bay has been the subject of intensive research on cultural eutrophication and extensive efforts to reduce nutrient inputs. In 1987 a commitment was made to reduce controllable sources of nitrogen (N) and phosphorous (P) by 40% by the year 2000, although the causes and effects of eutrophication were incompletely known. Subsequent research, modeling, and monitoring have shown that: (i) the estuarine ecosystem had been substantially altered by increased loadings of N and P of approximately 7- and 18-fold, respectively; (ii) hypoxia substantially increased since the 1950s; (iii) eutrophication was the major cause of reductions in submerged vegetation; and (iv) reducing nutrient sources by 40% would improve water quality, but less than originally thought. Strong public support and political commitment have allowed the Chesapeake Bay Program to reduce nutrient inputs, particularly from point sources, by 58% for P and 28% for N. However, reductions of nonpoint sources of P and N were projected by models to reach only 19% and 15%, respectively, of controllable loadings. The lack of reductions in nutrient concentrations in some streams and tidal waters and field research suggest that soil conservation–based management strategies are less effective than assumed. In 1997, isolated outbreaks of the toxic dinoflagellate Pfiesteria piscicida brought attention to the land application of poultry manure as a contributing factor to elevated soil P and ground water N concentrations. In addition to developing more effective agricultural practices, emerging issues include linking eutrophication and living resources, reducing atmospheric sources of N, enhancing nutrient sinks, controlling sprawling suburban development, and predicting and preventing harmful algal blooms.

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Copyright © 2001. American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Soil Science SocietyPublished in J. Environ. Qual.30:303–320.