Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Comparing nutrient pollution: the Indian Pamba River and the Weser

04.12.2015

Ocean pollution caused by fertilisers is increasing at a fast rate. Since the 1970s the riverine input of nitrogen and phosphor into the sea has tripled leading to excessive algal growth in many regions, which in turn threatens valuable ecosystems such as coral reefs.

Researchers from the Leibniz Center for Tropical Marine Ecology (ZMT) have conducted measurements in a densely populated river basin in India. Besides agricultural use of the hinterland, there is another prominent reason of water pollution: the largest pilgrimage on earth – the Sabarimala Temple. During their studies the ZMT researchers made a surprising discovery – the Pamba River in the Indian state of Kerala is less contaminated by nutrients than, for example, the German Weser River.


Pilgrims bathing in the Pamba river at the Sabarimala Temple, one of the largest pilgrimages on earth.

Tim Jennerjahn, Leibniz Center for Tropical Marine Ecology

A high population density, untreated sewage, use of fertilisers on farmland: Southeast Asian rivers are highly contaminated with nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus. During the monsoon season torrential rains wash large quantities of pollutants into the rivers. Data about ocean pollution caused by riverine input are plentiful in industrial nations, but are still rare in developing and emerging countries.

Dr. Tim Jennerjahn, a biogeochemist at the ZMT, and his PhD student Shilly Elizabeth David looked at the contamination of the Pamba River in the southern Indian state of Kerala, which has a population of more than 33 million. The results of their study have just been published in the journal “Science of the Total Environment”.

The Pamba River with a length of 176 km rises in the Western Ghats mountains, flows through the Kerala State and discharges into the Vembanad lake which, in turn, provides the connection to the Arabian Sea. An average of 400 people live within one square kilometre of land in the river catchment.

The ZMT scientists tested different sections of the river characterized by specific land uses like tea and rubber plantations, settlements with horticulture, rice crops and the pilgrimage site of the Sabarimala Temple. More than 50 million Hindus from all over the world flock to the sanctuary each year. Every day countless pilgrims take a bath in the Pamba to wash away their sins.

“Near the Sabarimala Temple we found large quantities of ammonium nitrogen as a result of human waste. We measured 3.1 kg per hectare and year,” says Tim Jennerjahn. “Close to the pilgrimage site the phosphorus load from detergents was also high.” With 5.6 kg per hectare and year the concentration of nitrate nitrogen resulting from fertilisers used in plantations and gardens was also considerable in the corresponding sections of the rivers.

“It has still come as a bit of a surprise to us that the nutrient load in such a densely populated area is lower than in German rivers such as the Weser, for example,” says Dr. Jennerjahn. “Lower-Saxony has a problem with manure, too much of it is washed from the fields into the Weser.”

While the Weser carries an average nitrogen load of 12 kg per hectare and year, the Pamba only contains 3.5 kg on average. In the Vembanad lake, forming the estuary of the Pamba, the concentration of nutrients is even lower, because abundant water hyacinths absorb nutrients, hence to some extent serve as ‘sewage treatment plants’.

“Our study highlights the importance of collecting further data on a local scale that take into account different types of land use, especially in densely populated tropical river catchments,” stresses Tim Jennerjahn. “Only then global trends can be ascertained on the one hand and region-specific measures can be taken to sustain healthy waters on the other hand.”

Publication
David, S.E., Chattopadhyay, M., Chattopadhyay, S., Jennerjahn, T.C. (2015) Impact of human interventions on nutrient biogeochemistry in the Pamba River, Kerala, India. Science of The Total Environment 541, pp. 1420–1430.

http://www.zmt-bremen.de

Dr. Susanne Eickhoff | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Upcycling of PET Bottles: New Ideas for Resource Cycles in Germany
25.06.2018 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Betriebsfestigkeit und Systemzuverlässigkeit LBF

nachricht Dry landscapes can increase disease transmission
20.06.2018 | Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V.

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: First evidence on the source of extragalactic particles

For the first time ever, scientists have determined the cosmic origin of highest-energy neutrinos. A research group led by IceCube scientist Elisa Resconi, spokesperson of the Collaborative Research Center SFB1258 at the Technical University of Munich (TUM), provides an important piece of evidence that the particles detected by the IceCube neutrino telescope at the South Pole originate from a galaxy four billion light-years away from Earth.

To rule out other origins with certainty, the team led by neutrino physicist Elisa Resconi from the Technical University of Munich and multi-wavelength...

Im Focus: Magnetic vortices: Two independent magnetic skyrmion phases discovered in a single material

For the first time a team of researchers have discovered two different phases of magnetic skyrmions in a single material. Physicists of the Technical Universities of Munich and Dresden and the University of Cologne can now better study and understand the properties of these magnetic structures, which are important for both basic research and applications.

Whirlpools are an everyday experience in a bath tub: When the water is drained a circular vortex is formed. Typically, such whirls are rather stable. Similar...

Im Focus: Breaking the bond: To take part or not?

Physicists working with Roland Wester at the University of Innsbruck have investigated if and how chemical reactions can be influenced by targeted vibrational excitation of the reactants. They were able to demonstrate that excitation with a laser beam does not affect the efficiency of a chemical exchange reaction and that the excited molecular group acts only as a spectator in the reaction.

A frequently used reaction in organic chemistry is nucleophilic substitution. It plays, for example, an important role in in the synthesis of new chemical...

Im Focus: New 2D Spectroscopy Methods

Optical spectroscopy allows investigating the energy structure and dynamic properties of complex quantum systems. Researchers from the University of Würzburg present two new approaches of coherent two-dimensional spectroscopy.

"Put an excitation into the system and observe how it evolves." According to physicist Professor Tobias Brixner, this is the credo of optical spectroscopy....

Im Focus: Chemical reactions in the light of ultrashort X-ray pulses from free-electron lasers

Ultra-short, high-intensity X-ray flashes open the door to the foundations of chemical reactions. Free-electron lasers generate these kinds of pulses, but there is a catch: the pulses vary in duration and energy. An international research team has now presented a solution: Using a ring of 16 detectors and a circularly polarized laser beam, they can determine both factors with attosecond accuracy.

Free-electron lasers (FELs) generate extremely short and intense X-ray flashes. Researchers can use these flashes to resolve structures with diameters on the...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Leading experts in Diabetes, Metabolism and Biomedical Engineering discuss Precision Medicine

13.07.2018 | Event News

Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP: Fine Tuning for Surfaces

12.07.2018 | Event News

11th European Wood-based Panel Symposium 2018: Meeting point for the wood-based materials industry

03.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Leading experts in Diabetes, Metabolism and Biomedical Engineering discuss Precision Medicine

13.07.2018 | Event News

Research finds new molecular structures in boron-based nanoclusters

13.07.2018 | Materials Sciences

Algae Have Land Genes

13.07.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>