Recent efforts to determine the extent of nutrient over-enrichment, such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Estuarine Eutrophication Assessment (Bricker et al. 1999), have been hampered by a lack of systematic monitoring and reporting and inadequate coverage of the nation’s coasts. Nonetheless, the available data clearly demonstrate that problems associated with nutrient over-enrichment occur nationwide and that impacts will worsen if current trends continue. As discussed earlier, NOAA’s examination of 139 coastal water bodies found that nearly one-third (44) are experiencing severe or worsening impacts caused by nutrient over-enrichment (Figure 1-1). The nutrient sources are diverse, often rooted in major changes in technology and human behavior over the last 50 years—ranging from significant changes in how agriculture is conducted to expanded use of fossil fuels. Solutions to the problems caused by nutrient over-enrichment are multi-faceted and vary from region to region.

Although there are large national programs that aim to “protect and restore coastal waters and habitat,” there is no nationwide strategy designed specifically to address excess nutrient inputs to coastal waters. At present, there is little accessible information or easily implemented and reliable methods for a decisionmaker or program manager in a coastal area to determine the sources of excess nutrients or the potential impacts of those nutrients to a specific coastal waterbody.1 Although many federal agencies are making significant independent efforts to help local jurisdictions deal with the effects of nutrient over-enrichment in coastal settings, the degree of coordination among these agencies and efforts remains inadequate.

The severity of nutrient-related problems and the importance of the coastal areas at risk demand the development and implementation of a National Nutrient Management Strategy. The National Nutrient Management Strategy should coordinate local, state, regional, and national efforts to combat nutrient over-enrichment in coastal areas, with the goal of seeing significant and measurable improvement in the environmental quality of impaired coastal ecosystems.


This report places significant emphasis on the role of local decisionmakers to formulate and implement local actions. Because this authority and responsibility to formulate and implement policy is vested in different entities in all the various jurisdictions involved, it is impractical for the report to identify specific actors for recommended actions at the local level. Thus, wherever the term “local decisionmaker or manager” is used in this report, the committee is referring to the appropriate entity responsible for formulating and implementing policy in any given jurisdiction.

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement