Fossil fuels and meat consumption pollute coasts

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Eutrophication: Sources and Drivers of Nutrient Pollution, the second report of a three-part series, finds that developing countries will see more nitrogen and phosphorus pollution in coastal and freshwater areas in the coming decades as a result of population and economic growth. More people and rising incomes will increase the demand for food, energy, land and other natural resources, which will ultimately lead to greater agricultural production and burning of fossil fuels to heat homes, power cars, and fuel industry.

According to the research, worldwide per capita meat consumption is expected to rise by 14 percent by 2030. When factoring in population growth, the rise equates to an estimated increase of 53 percent in total meat consumed globally.

Increased livestock production will have significant implications for the severity of nutrient pollution, particularly in countries without effective environmental regulations. For example, meat production in China has increased by 127 percent from 1990 to 2002, but fewer than 14,000 livestock operations have pollution controls. For example, one swine operation in the Black Sea region that is now closed had more than 1 million pigs and generated sewage equivalent to a town of 5 million people.

The manure from these operations is often applied to fields as fertilizer and then leaches and runs off into nearby waterways. According to the report, 80% of the nitrogen used in swine production is excreted as manure or lost to the environment during the production of animal feed.

The report also suggests that the demand for energy will increase eutrophic conditions worldwide. Total global energy consumption is expected to rise by 50% by 2030 and a majority of that will be in the developing world.

Some studies have found that atmospheric sources of nitrogen are a significant source of coastal pollution, particularly in industrialized countries with high NOx emissions. In the Chesapeake Bay (USA), atmospheric deposition accounts for 30% of the nitrogen pollution found in the watershed.

The third report in the series will focus on the types of institutions, actions and policies that are critical for addressing eutrophication. The first report, Eutrophication and Hypoxia in coastal Areas, is a survey of where coastal eutrophication is occurring worldwide.

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