/ (juːˌtrɒfɪˈkeɪʃən) /
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a process by which pollution from such sources as sewage effluent or leachate from fertilized fields causes a lake, pond, or fen to become overrich in organic and mineral nutrients, so that algae and cyanobacteria grow rapidly and deplete the oxygen supply
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Words nearby eutrophication

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012


What is eutrophication?

Eutrophication is a process in which too many nutrients in water leads to a large number of algae and plants. This eventually causes a shortage of oxygen in the water.

Eutrophication occurs when algae and plants in the water have a much larger supply of nutrients than they normally would. This allows them to thrive and reproduce in large numbers. While a large number of plants sounds good, eutrophication kicks off a harmful chain reaction.

When algae reproduces in large numbers, it forms a thick blanket on top of a body of water, like a lake. This blanket blocks the sunlight from getting through and will eventually kill the underwater plants that need sunlight. All of these dead plants will be eaten by bacteria, which uses up oxygen when they eat. With fewer plants making oxygen and more bacteria using it up, there won’t be enough oxygen for aquatic life, such as fish, to survive in the lake. The result of eutrophication is that the entire area can no longer support plants or animals.

Why is eutrophication important?

The word eutrophication has been used since at least 1845. It is a noun formed from the adjective eutrophic, which itself comes from the word eutrophy. In natural science, eutrophy means “being high in nutrients but low in oxygen.” Eutrophication is the process by which a lake or other body of water reaches a state of eutrophy.

Eutrophication does happen naturally when rocks and minerals enter a body of water, but it takes a very long time to happen. Faster, more harmful incidents of eutrophication are caused by water pollution from humans. Dumping and waste runoff causes nutrient-rich chemicals like ammonia to enter the water and fuel a population explosion of algae and plants.

Eutrophication causes fishkills, which leads to smaller hauls of fish and rising prices of fish and other seafood. Additionally, the algae known as cyanobacteria releases toxins powerful enough to cause harm to humans. Beyond the health dangers, treating toxic water is expensive and the presence of toxic algae is likely to reduce property values.

Did you know … ?

In the United States, eutrophication is estimated to be responsible for approximately $2.2 billion in damage that includes lost fishing revenue and drinking-water treatment costs.

What are real-life examples of eutrophication?

Natural scientists and conservationists are more likely to know what eutrophication is.

What other words are related to eutrophication?

Quiz yourself!

True or False?

Eutrophication is when a body of water has too few nutrients, which leads to a shortage of oxygen from a large number of plants dying.

How to use eutrophication in a sentence

  • Eutrophication is the scientific name of this kind of overenrichment.

    The Nation's River|United States Department of the Interior

Scientific definitions for eutrophication

[ yōō-trŏf′ĭ-kāshən ]

The process by which a lake, pond, or stream becomes eutrophic, typically as a result of mineral and organic runoff from the surrounding land. The increased growth of plants and algae that accompanies eutrophication depletes the dissolved oxygen content of the water and often causes a die-off of other organisms.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.