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Dr. Brian LAPOINTE and Marie TARNOWSKI 02 12 14 : IRL as Bioreactor

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Published on Apr 2, 2014

Delivery of land-based nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) to continental shelf waters is controlled by estuaries, which function as natural bioreactors that process the nutrients en route to the coastal ocean. Urbanization on the watersheds of the Indian River Lagoon (IRL) have increased its nutrient inputs and eutrophication over the past six decades, recently reaching a "tipping point" where excessive macroalgae (seaweeds) and phytoplankton "super blooms" caused widespread seagrass loss.

Research utilizing stable nitrogen isotopes in 2011 and 2012 identified sewage as a primary source of nitrogen supporting these harmful algal blooms in the IRL. Although the point-sources (outfalls) of sewage inputs to the IRL were largely eliminated in the 1990s through the Indian River Lagoon Act, non-point source (diffuse) sewage inputs have continued to increase. This lecture will describe how widespread use of septic tanks results in diffuse nutrient enrichment of groundwaters and surface waters of tidal creeks and canals that flow into the IRL, fueling harmful algal blooms and seagrass loss in this estuary of national significance.

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