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What must be done to ensure that all of the metrics improve significantly, indisputably and permanently?The answer is the same worldwide — fertilize more efficiently so crops use more of the applied nutrients, thus reducing environmental nitrogen and phosphorus pollution.We can never “restore” 600,000 acres of SAV because the Bay can never revert to its original forested condition that supported a few native communities. Use of the word “restoration” should always raise the red flag of unrealistic expectations.
How many people know that conventional chemical fertilization efficiency is typically no better than about 65 percent when the fertilizer is applied at the time of planting?
Fertilizer application should closely match plants’ needs throughout the growth cycle.
Farmers, supported by the powerful agricultural lobby, seek to maximize their harvest (profit) without paying for the pollution they cause. Most of the grain produced in the Bay watershed feeds animals raised for meat, not humans.
At least four metrics can be used to gauge Bay water quality.
Hampton Roads Planning District is committed to providing localities with the best resources, information, and technical assistance related to local water quality.
Reducing pollution in the form of high levels of nutrients, bacteria, sediment, and chemicals is critical to the health of our local waterways.Additionally, most of the recent SAV increase is from low– or intermediate-salinity species, while eelgrass — the most critical species in the Lower Bay — continues to decline.A 2017 paper in the journal Global Change Biology stated, “eelgrass area has declined 29 percent in total since 1991, with wide-ranging and severe ecological and economic consequences.Most menhaden are now being caught offshore and fewer are caught in the Bay.One can argue that the same water quality issues that cause reduced commercial landings of other species in the Bay also apply to menhaden in the Bay, and are not the result of overfishing.All scientific publications stress that continued nutrient reduction is necessary if additional Bay water quality improvement is to be realized.Reduced nutrient pollution cannot continue to focus on urban areas.Sea Grass Abundance: Recently, seagrass — submerged vegetation, or SAV — beds exceeded 100,000 acres, as was reported with great glee. Some believe the Bay once had about 600,000 acres of SAV.In the mid-1980s, acreage had declined to less than 40,000, which has now slightly more than doubled.It demonstrates that reducing nutrient pollution does result in water quality improvement.But we are a very long way from where we need to be.