New studies initiated by the U.S. Geological Survey - Effects of nutrient enrichment on stream ecosystems

Fact Sheet 118-03

ORCID iD and



In 2001, the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Program began an intensive study of nutrient enrichment elevated concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorus in streams in five agricultural basins across the Nation (see map, p. 2). This study is providing nationally consistent and comparable data and analyses of nutrient conditions, including how these conditions vary as a result of natural and human-related factors, and how nutrient conditions affect algae and other biological communities. This information will benefit stakeholders, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and its partners, who are developing nutrient criteria to protect the aquatic health of streams in different geographic regions.

Nutrient enrichment is one of five national priority topics addressed by NAWQA in its second decade of studies, which began in 2001. During its first round of assessments in 51 major river basins (referred to as “Study Units”), NAWQA scientists collected data on water chemistry, stream hydrology and habitat, and biological communities; currently, NAWQA is revisiting selected basins and focusing on (1) trends, (2) factors that affect water quality and aquatic health, and (3) national priority water issues related to, for example, the development of nutrient criteria, source-water protection strategies, and stream restoration plans.

The nutrient enrichment study has four major objectives that address nutrient conditions, dissolved oxygen, aquatic communities, and geographic and landscape features in agricultural basins (see inset). The focus on agricultural streams is a starting point. As the study progresses, streams draining other land uses, such as those in residential and urban areas, will likely be added.

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New studies initiated by the U.S. Geological Survey - Effects of nutrient enrichment on stream ecosystems
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Fact Sheet
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U.S. Geological Survey
4 p.