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Nitrogen Cycle- Algae Bloom and Eutrophication

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Biology
Wordcount: 1203 words Published: 18th May 2020

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1.  Overview

As we all know Nitrogen constitute 78% of an atmospheric air. But neither our human body nor plants possess the right enzyme to utilize it. Nitrogen is important for food supply, but excess nitrogen can be harmful in many ways. There are two major human activities by which Nitrogen get released in to environment: combustion of fossil fuels and the use of nitrogen-containing fertilizers in agriculture. Both processes increase levels of nitrogen-containing compounds in the atmosphere. High levels of atmospheric nitrogen other than NO2 are associated with harmful effects, like the production of acid rain as nitric acid, HNO3 and contributions to the greenhouse effect as nitrous oxide,N2O [1].

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Nitrogen is essential component of fertilizers use for farming. It is very useful nutrient for plants to grow. But when artificial fertilizers containing nitrogen and phosphorus are used in agriculture, the excess fertilizer may be washed into lakes, streams, and rivers by surface runoff. In this process, nutrient runoff causes overgrowth, or a “Bloom,” of algae or other microorganisms. Without nutrient runoff, they were limited in their growth by the availability of nitrogen and phosphorus [1].

2. Problem Description


According to one weather network, majority of lakes in Canada is suffering from Blue-Green algae. Some lakes in Ontario are also suffering from this problem. Hamilton’s Public Health Service has confirmed that algae bloom has been spotted on city’s harbor [2].  Lake Erie and St. Clair Lake in Windsor-Essex experienced the largest harmful algal bloom in its recorded history, and it continues to increase over the past year [3]. The condition favorable for algae growth is nutrient rich water and moderate warm water. So summer and fall are the suitable seasons for the algae to bloom. 

Lake Erie HAB Seasonal Forecast [7]             Algae found in lake Ontario[8]

Algae are the naturally occurring microscopic plants like living organism. The bacteria present in algae are known as cyanobacteria. Algae are generally of blue or green in color. They can also be in other colors such as yellow, brown or red which generally depends upon the type of photosynthesis pigment in the algal cells. Cyanobacteria are responsible for the bright green algae while Microsystis are for Blue-Green algae [5].

They are generally not visible if are in less concentration but when the condition and nutrients of water are favorable to them, they grow rapidly in mass which is called “bloom”and Nitrogen is one of the nutrients which stimulate the algae growth. Hence when any water source becomes excessively nutrient rich, it results in growth of algae and depletion of oxygen. This is known as eutrophication [4]. Fish and wildlife habitat also get affected by excessive algae growth. Supply of the oxygen gets depleted by the decaying algae bloom which lies at the bottom of any aquatic source. This creates dead zones where it is very difficult for aquatic life to survive.      

Necessity to tackle this problem:

  • Effect on ecology:

This algae-bloom consumes oxygen presents in the water and hence the dissolved oxygen level in the water decreases. So, there will be less oxygen for the aquatic life. The layer of algae-bloom on the surface of any lake or river reduces the solar penetration through it which is also harmful for marine life [5].   

  • Effects on Human and animals:

Algae-bloom omits noxious fumes. It can cause serious health issues if someone breathe it in. Skin contact with Cyanotoxins can cause irritation of the skin; eyes, nose and throat, and inflammation of the respiratory tract. Drinking water, containing high concentration can lead to nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and diarrheal. Eating contaminated fish or seafood can cause illness. Some recreational activities such as swimming, fishing, boating also gets interfered by algae bloom [6].

3. Search Strategies

  • We would like to consider the opinion of Public health services from Ontario.
  • We would refer to various articles showing statistics of the algae growth in lakes.
  • We are planning to visit few lakes; to investigate density of the algae growth.
  • We are watching videos from YouTube and verifying different websites to gain insights of how to avoid the algae growth.


[1]  ”Khan Academy,” [Online]. Available: https://www.khanacademy.org/science/biology/ecology/biogeochemical-cycles/a/the-nitrogen-cycle. [Accessed 28 09 2019].

[2]  M. R. Aczel, “Frontiers for Young Minds,” 12 03 2019. [Online]. Available: https://kids.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/frym.2019.00041. [Accessed 28 09 2019].

[3]  J. I. Centre, “PHYS.ORG,” 06 09 2018. [Online]. Available: https://phys.org/news/2018-09-nitrogen-fixation-cereal-crops-closer.html. [Accessed 28 09 2019].

[4]  W. v. Aken, “Toxic Blue-Green Algae Is Taking Over The Waters Of Canada This Summer,” 20 07 2019.

[5]  Eutrophication, “Wikipedia”.

[6]   A. M. Michalak, E. J. Anderson, D. Beletsky, S. Boland, N. S. Bosch, T. B. Bridgeman, J. D. Chaffin, K. Cho, R. Confesor, I. Daloğlu, J. V. DePinto, M. A. Evans, G. L. Fahnenstiel, L. He, J. C. Ho, L. Jenkins, T. H. Johengen, K. C. Kuo, E. LaPorte, X. Liu, M. R. McWilliams, M. R. Moore, D. J. Posselt, R. P. Richards, D. Scavia, A. L. Steiner, E. Verhamme, D. M. Wright, and M. A. Zagorski, “Record-setting algal bloom in Lake Erie caused by agricultural and meteorological trends consistent with expected future conditions,” PNAS-proceedings of the national academy of science of the united states of America, 16 April 2013. [Online]. Available: https://www.pnas.org/content/110/16/6448. [Accessed 28 09 2019].

[7]National Weather Service. (n.d.). Retrieved 10 03, 2019, from https://www.weather.gov/cle/LakeErieHAB

[8]oshawaexpress . (2018, 08 08). Blue-green algae found in Lake Ontario


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