Searching for undesirable disturbance: an application of the OSPAR eutrophication assessment method to marine waters of England and Wales

Jo Foden, Michelle J. Devlin, David K. Mills, Stephen J. Malcolm

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)


The OSPAR Eutrophication Strategy requires assessment of eutrophication to be based on the ecological consequences of nutrient enrichment and not just on nutrient enrichment alone, i.e. finding reliable evidence for accelerated growth of algae and higher forms of plant life caused by anthropogenic nutrient enrichment, leading to undesirable disturbance. Fully flushed marine waters of England and Wales (salinity >30) were assessed against OSPAR's harmonised criteria of nutrient concentration and ratios, chlorophyll concentrations, phytoplankton indicator species, macrophytes, dissolved oxygen (DO) levels, incidence of fish kills and changes in the zoobenthos, using region specific thresholds. None of the thirteen assessment areas, including six nutrient enriched areas, exhibited evidence for undesirable disturbance. This paper details the methods and the overall outcome of the assessment. It presents evidence that undesirable disturbance caused by nutrient enrichment was not detected in English and Welsh marine waters assessed under the OSPAR procedure. The main reasons for the lack of eutrophication problems, such as the underwater light climate limiting the accelerated growth of algae, which might otherwise result from nutrient enrichment, are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)157–175
Number of pages19
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2010

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