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EAC inquiry investigates the ecological impacts of nitrate pollution

General - Flood River

The Environmental Audit Committee has interviewed a range of academics and environmental groups in a bid to better understand the scale of nitrate pollution across the UK and its environmental implications.

Alongside the interviews a range of evidence was submitted, detailing the extent of nitrate pollution levels of and its impacts. Written evidence submitted by the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH) revealed that current levels of nitrate pollution are much higher than is environmentally sustainable.

According to the combined evidence submitted, some of the implications of this include:

  • The loss of native woodland shrubs and their replacement by competitor species such as ivy and nettles
  • Declining quality of aquatic ecosystems and the loss of biodiversity due to algal blooms
  • The acidification of soils and loss of terrestrial biodiversity

The evidence advocated the targeting of nitrate and phosphorus pollution in tandem, as a combination of the two is what causes the dense – sometimes harmful – growth of plants and algae.

The CEH explains: "Scientific studies show that focusing on nitrate alone is unlikely to achieve the required improvements in ecological status of rivers; combined approaches for controlling and managing both phosphorus and nitrate inputs to rivers and lakes will be needed."

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