Following the EPA regulation to reduce phosphorous pollution by 54% of rivers, ponds and lakes, Rob Moir speaks with ORI’s newest intern Liz Stebbins about the connections between lawn fertilization, harmful algal blooms, and protecting waterways and the fish that inhabit them.
ORI’s campaign began in Falmouth, MA when 16 Striped Bass were found dead on the shore. Residents blamed the lawns sloping down to the water. Over-fertilization of lawns causes excess phosphorous and nitrogen (nutrients) to run into waterways, where they consequently feed slimy, harmful algal blooms. Algal blooms suck oxygen out of the water and kill fish. Striped bass and their forage fish, herring, have a very interesting role in New England ecology and culture.
Falmouth has set the example for the other 350 municipalities to follow: fertilize lawns once a year in the spring. Falmouth is spreading one pound nitrogen per thousand square feet instead of five pounds nitrogen AND their grass is still just as green as neighboring lawns.
Liz Stebbins is in her third year of studying biology at Harvard College. She is particularly interested in marine biology and the conservation and management of ocean resources, and since beginning work at ORI has loved being able to support political change based on scientific understanding. She is fascinated by fishery ecology (an interesting intersection between policy and biology) and hopes to continue learning at the Ocean River Institute.
You may lend a hand by supporting Liz’s Stop Harmful Algal Blooms networking page or become a Fundraiser with your own networking page. Lawn by lawn, waterway by waterway, let’s have clean waters once more.