A University of Washington study of 36 lakes has found evidence of nitrogen from human activities in more than 75 percent of them. Some of the lakes, which range from the U.S. Rocky Mountains to northern Europe, are “thousands of miles from the nearest city, industrial area or farm.” And the pollution dates back to before the 20th century.
The study, which was published in the Dec. 16 edition of the journal Science, highlights the environmental impact that fossil fuels and nitrogen-based fertilizers can have on the earth’s water supply.
According to a story on the university’s Web site, “When it comes to nitrogen associated with humans, most studies have focused on local and regional effects of pollution and have missed the planetary scale changes,” researcher Gordon Holtgrieve said. “Our study is the first large-scale synthesis to demonstrate that biologically-active nitrogen associated with human society is being transported in the atmosphere to the most remote ecosystems on the planet.”
So, what can you do about it? Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Establish a buffer zone to trap runoff. Cut down on — or, even better, eliminate — the chemical fertilizers you use on your garden or lawn. Reduce, reuse and recycle to eliminate as much waste as possible, and avoid burning trash (it’s prohibited in many municipalities anyway). Buy locally grown foods (which not only bolsters the local economy, but reduces the amount of fuel needed to transport produce), and aim for organic goods when possible. Cut down on unnecessary trips, and car pool when you can. And above all, remember that local actions can have global implications.
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