General issues on Environmental ecology : Pollution

Pollution is the introduction of contaminants into a natural environment that causes instability, harm or discomfort to the ecosystem. A point source of pollution is a single identifiable source of air, water, thermal, noise or light pollution. Some examples are 1. Water pollution from an oil refinery wastewater discharge outlet, 2.Noise pollution from a jet engine, 3. Light pollution from an intrusive street light etc. Nonpoint source (NPS) pollution refers to both water and air pollution from diffuse sources. Although these pollutants have originated from a point source, the long-range transport ability and multiple sources of the pollutant make it a nonpoint source of pollution. Runoff of soil and fertilizer during a rain storm can be considered as a Nonpoint source (NPS) pollution.
Hypoxia- caused by pollution
Hypoxia, or oxygen depletion, is a phenomenon that occurs in aquatic environments as dissolved oxygen becomes reduced in concentration to a point where it becomes detrimental to aquatic organisms living in the system. Dissolved oxygen is typically expressed as a percentage of the oxygen that would dissolve in the water at the prevailing temperature and salinity. An aquatic system lacking dissolved oxygen (0% saturation) is termed anaerobic, reducing, or anoxic; a system with low concentration—in the range between 1 and 30% saturation—is called hypoxic or dysoxic. Most fish cannot live below 30% saturation. A "healthy" aquatic environment should seldom experience less than 80%.
To combat hypoxia, it is essential to reduce the amount of land-derived nutrients reaching rivers in runoff. Defensively this can be done by improving sewage treatment and by reducing the amount of fertilizers leaching into the rivers. Offensively this can be done by restoring natural environments along a river; marshes are particularly effective in reducing the amount of phosphorus and nitrogen (nutrients) in water.

Algal Bloom - caused by pollution
An algal bloom is a rapid increase or accumulation in the population of algae in an aquatic system. Algal blooms may occur in freshwater as well as marine environments. Of particular note are harmful algal blooms (HABs), which are algal bloom events involving toxic or otherwise harmful phytoplankton. Such blooms often take on a red or brown hue and are known colloquially as red tides. Freshwater algal blooms are the result of an excess of nutrients, particularly phosphorus. The excess of nutrients may originate from fertilizers that are applied to land for agricultural or recreational purposes, these nutrients can then enter watersheds through water runoff. Excess carbon and nitrogen have also been suspected as causes.

When phosphates are introduced into water systems, higher concentrations cause increased growth of algae and plants. Algae tend to grow very quickly under high nutrient availability, but each alga is short-lived, and the result is a high concentration of dead organic matter which starts to decay. The decay process consumes dissolved oxygen in the water, resulting in hypoxic conditions. Without sufficient dissolved oxygen in the water, animals and plants may die off in large numbers.

A harmful algal bloom (HAB) is an algal bloom that causes negative impacts to other organisms via production of natural toxins, mechanical damage to other organisms, or by other means. In the marine environment, single-celled, microscopic, plant-like organisms naturally occur in the surface layer of any body of water. These organisms, referred to as phytoplankton or microalgae, form the base of the food web upon which nearly all other marine organisms depend. Of the 5000+ species of marine phytoplankton that exist worldwide, about 2% are known to be harmful or toxic. Blooms of harmful algae can have large and varied impacts on marine ecosystems, depending on the species involved, the environment where they are found, and the mechanism by which they exert negative effects.

Phytoplankton
Phytoplankton are photosynthesizing microscopic organisms that inhabit the upper sunlit layer of almost all oceans and bodies of fresh water. They are agents for "primary production," the creation of organic compounds from carbon dioxide dissolved in the water, a process that sustains the aquatic food web. Phytoplankton obtain energy through the process of photosynthesis and must therefore live in the surface layer (termed the euphotic zone) of an ocean, sea, lake, or other body of water. Phytoplankton account for half of all photosynthetic activity on Earth. Thus phytoplankton are responsible for much of the oxygen present in the Earth's atmosphere – half of the total amount produced by all plant life. Their cumulative energy fixation in carbon compounds (primary production) is the basis for the vast majority of oceanic and also many freshwater food webs (chemosynthesis is a notable exception).

Chemosynthesis
It is the biological conversion of one or more carbon molecules (usually carbon dioxide or methane) and nutrients into organic matter using the oxidation of inorganic molecules (e.g. hydrogen gas, hydrogen sulfide) or methane as a source of energy, rather than sunlight, as in photosynthesis. Instead of releasing oxygen gas as in photosynthesis, solid globules of sulfur are produced. Many microorganisms in dark regions of the oceans also use chemosynthesis to produce biomass from single carbon molecules.

Dead zones
Dead zones are hypoxic (low-oxygen) areas in the world's oceans. A 2008 study counted 405 dead zones worldwide where marine life could not be supported due to depleted oxygen levels. Aquatic and marine dead zones can be caused by an increase in chemical nutrients (particularly nitrogen and phosphorus) in the water, known as eutrophication. These chemicals are the fundamental building blocks of single-celled, plant-like organisms that live in the water column, and whose growth is limited in part by the availability of these materials. Eutrophication can lead to rapid increases in the density of certain types of these phytoplankton, a phenomenon known as an algal bloom. Although these algae produce oxygen in the daytime via photosynthesis, during the night hours they continue to undergo cellular respiration and can therefore deplete the water column of available oxygen.[citation needed] In addition, when algal blooms die off, oxygen is used up further during bacterial decomposition of the dead algal cells. Both of these processes can result in a significant depletion of dissolved oxygen in the water, creating hypoxic conditions. Dead zones can be caused by natural and by anthropogenic factors. Use of chemical fertilizers is considered the major human-related cause of dead zones around the world. Natural causes include coastal upwelling and changes in wind and water circulation patterns. Runoff from sewage, urban land use, and fertilizers can also contribute to eutrophication.

Iron fertilization
Iron fertilization is the intentional introduction of iron to the upper ocean to stimulate a phytoplankton bloom. This is intended to enhance biological productivity, which can benefit the marine food chain and remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Iron is a trace element necessary for photosynthesis in all plants. It is highly insoluble in sea water and is often the limiting nutrient for phytoplankton growth. Large phytoplankton blooms can be created by supplying iron to iron-deficient ocean waters. Fertilization can also occur when weather carries wind blown dust long distances over the ocean, or iron-rich minerals are carried into the ocean by glaciers, rivers and icebergs. LOHAFEX-2009 was an Indian and German Iron Fertilization Experiment conducted in South Atlantic.

Carbon sink
A carbon sink is a natural or artificial reservoir that accumulates and stores some carbon-containing chemical compound for an indefinite period. The process by which carbon sinks remove carbon dioxide  from the atmosphere is known as carbon sequestration. Public awareness of the significance of CO2 sinks has grown since passage of the Kyoto Protocol, which promotes their use as a form of carbon offset.

The main natural sinks are:
1. Absorption of carbon dioxide by the oceans via physicochemical and biological processes
2. Photosynthesis by terrestrial plants
Natural sinks are typically much larger than artificial sinks. The main artificial sinks are:
1. Landfills
2. Carbon capture and storage proposals

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