Conservation, Environmental Hazards, Nature

Comparing Chesapeake Bay and the Baltic Sea Could Help Both

A heron in the water in Chesapeake Bay
Comparing the water pollution levels in Chesapeake Bay with those of the Baltic Sea could help preserve both.
Image: Shutterstock

According to a recent report, scientists from Natural Resources Institute Finland, the USDA’s Economic Research Service, and the University of Helsinki, the Baltic Sea and Chesapeake Bay share significant similarities which could help protect both of them.

Both share similar problems with eutrophication, which is caused by an increase in the amount of nutrients contained in the water. While this may sound like a good thing at first, it is in fact a form of water pollution which is usually–and in these cases certainly is–caused by humans.

Scientists refer to this as external nutrient loading, wherein nearby land use, especially agricultural use, creates runoff that contains fertilizers and other nutrients. When those nutrients enter the water, they lead to an increase in algae and other water plants, which can seriously impact the fragile aquatic ecosystem.

In both the Baltic Sea and Chesapeake Bay, this has led to reduced water quality, despite successful attempts to reduce external nutrient load. More progress needs to be made. But luckily, this research has yielded some ideas of how to improve things and better protect these bodies of water, as well as other bodies of water that may be suffering from the same problems.

The suggestions the researchers made center around finding ways to reduce pollution without overburdening farmers and, though they do suggest a general “polluters pay” model which would, presumably, put the financial onus on the people who are most responsible for the problem. They suggest further research into the specific causes of the pollution and how it’s delivered to these bodies of water, such as through runoff or precipitation. They made sure to point out that the focus of protection efforts needs to be on improving the efficiency of protection without necessarily worrying about offsetting the costs of implementation. Carefully considering economic realities before setting policy goals, the researchers suggest, is one way to do that.

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