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2.4 Effects on marine systems

In the marine environment, nutrient enrichment is suspected when surface phytoplankton blooms are seen to occur more frequently and for longer periods. Some species of phytoplankton release toxic compounds and can cause mass mortality of other marine life in the vicinity of the bloom. Changes in the relative abundance of phytoplankton species may also occur, with knock-on effects throughout the food web, as many zooplankton grazers have distinct feeding preferences. In sheltered estuarine areas, high nutrient levels appear to favour the growth of green macroalgae (‘seaweeds’) belonging to such genera as Enteromorpha and Ulva (Figure 2.18).

Figure 2.18
Figure 2.18 The macroalga Ulva taeniata, which can grow to several metres in length, given a sufficient supply of nutrients.