, Volume 36, Issue 2, pp 95-103

Fertilizers and eutrophication in southwestern Australia: Setting the scene

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Abstract

An excess of plant nutrients has caused serious eutrophication in aquatic ecosystems of southwestern Australia manifested by excessive growth and accumulation of green and bluegreen algae. Phosphorus is generally the limiting nutrient for algal growth and phosphatic fertilizers applied to nutrient-deficient, leaching, sandy soils are the main source of P, supplemented by rural industry point sources. Nitrogen is the limiting nutrient in marine embayments with little drainage from the land. Measures to reduce the load of P delivered to drainage include basing fertilizer application rates on soil testing for P and the use of less soluble P fertilizers. Catchment management plans are being implemented with community involvement to reduce P loads and maintain agricultural production. This introductory paper reviews the history of eutrophication in southwestern Australia and of studies into its causes, principally in the large Peel-Harvey estuary. It briefly summarises other papers in this special issue concerned with different aspects of the problem: how to fertilize the land without causing eutrophication.