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Well the issue is what happens once this algae dies. As the water, either due to rain or irrigation for the crops, as the water flows from those crops into local streams and rivers, it’ll eventually find its way into local streams and rivers.

Eu referring to well and then trophic or trophia, referring to eutrophicaion, or nourishment. And if you were to zoom in, let’s say on the Caspian Sea, you can see this eutorphication more detail, you can visually see this. So you have more phosphates in this, let’s say this is a lake of some kind, so I’ll make it big. Now a lot of times when we think of ocean animals, so when we think of, I’ll just draw a little euttrophication here, and so that’s a little fish, we don’t often think about the necessity of oxygen in the water.

And then we have a Dead Zone. And it comes from, or it’s derived from, the Greek for well nourished.

That helps the plants grow more, which seems like a good thing, but there’s another side effect that happens because of this. Science Biology Ecology Biogeochemical cycles. And so, you could have photosynthetic organisms like algae in this lake and if it didn’t have the fertilizer you might just eutrophictaion a little bit of the algae.

Eutrophication and dead zones.

In order to ensure that the crops grow as much as they can, we add fertilizer to it, and a lot of that fertilizer might be nitrogen, it might be phosphorous in the form of phosphates, so eutrophicatjon add fertilizer. This is another one, and you’ve probably seen this, especially in places that might have sewage runoff.


So the general idea, we’ve already talked about things like nitrogen and especially phosphorous being a rate-limiting factor for how fast plants can grow.

It could just make the surface of the water a little bit less clear, a little bit green, but hey, there’s living things here. So right over here is kind of a global picture of eutrophicaion zones that we have and you see them all through the world. And you see they are typically concentrated where we have more industrialized nations, where we have either more agriculture happening, more industrial agriculture, where they might be using more fertilizer and also where eurtophication might have more runoff from cities that will povil nutrients like the phosphates, that will cause this eutrophication to happen.

Let me show you some more. We have some pictures here.

To log in and use all the features of Khan Academy, please enable JavaScript in your browser. It’s getting way more phosphates than would have eutrophicatoin happened just if there wasn’t fertilizer, if there wasn’t this runoff happening. And the biggest culprit here tends to be phosphates, the phosphorous in them, and that helps the plants grow more. But now since they’re getting all of these phosphates, the algae can go crazy.

You can see the algeal, algal blooms throughout this area. It’s really happening because there’s extra nutrients that are allowing these algal blooms or aldral algo, I don’t know, to go out of control and when they decompose the bacteria is sopping up all the oxygen, nothing else can live.

And it actually creates what we call dead zones. We’ve already talked about the role of oxygen in respiration.

Eutrophication and dead zones

That could be food for bacteria, and as the bacteria consume it, they also use oxygen. Let’s say this is a lake of it and we already know that things like phosphates are the rate-limiting factors for plants. So, right over here is a satellite image of the Caspian Sea and you can see the eutrophication.

This is potential eutrophication in this picture. And so this is where that algae is getting over-nourished. On one level, phosphates and fertilizers, nitrates seem like a good thing, it’s helping eutrohication grow more crops, but we have to be very careful with where it actually ends up.


We talked about that in the nitrogen and the phosphorous cycle videos. Once this algae dies, and it starts to float down, that can be food for bacteria. So this is a serious ecological thing that we have to think about.

Video transcript – We’re now going to talk about something called eutrophication. And this is a serious problem. And you might say okay, well why is this bad? It’s making the water less clear.

And this is happening on a macro scale.


And so you might think that this is a good thing but as we’ll see over the course of this video, this is really about over-nourishment, and over-nourishment to the point that it’s actually causing very bad things to happen in our biosphere.

And this is, let’s say that’s a farm, right over there on the land where we’re growing our crops. So what has happened is, so let’s say that this right over here is some land. And it’s not just fertilizers, even some detergents in the past, they have, you have sodium phosphates, which once again, can cause this eutrophication.

So these are all the crops that we’re growing. And because of that, we humans have added a lot of nitrogen and especially phosphates to plants in order to grow them better, because we need the plants to live, to have more food.

And so the irony here is, by having this fertilizer runoff, by having these extra phosphates, this eutrophication, by allowing one thing to grow far more than it would have otherwise, it actually ends up depleting the oxygen that keeps other things from growing. But now all of a sudden, if this bacteria, because they’re able to decompose all this algae that is dying, if they’re consuming all of the oxygen, well it depletes the oxygen from the water so that the ocean animals can’t live there anymore.

If you’re seeing this message, it means we’re having trouble loading external resources on our website. The algae can go crazy and grow all over the surface of the lake.

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