Impacts of nutrient reduction on coastal communities

C.J.M. Philippart, J.J. Beukema, G.C. Cad, R. Dekker, P.W. Goedhart, J.M. van Iperen, M.F. Leopold, P.M.J. Herman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

132 Citations (Scopus)


Eutrophication due to high anthropogenic nutrient loading has greatly impacted ecological processes in marine coastal waters and, therefore, much effort has been put into reducing nitrogen and phosphorus discharges into European and North-American waters. Nutrient enrichment usually resulted in increase of biomass and production of phytoplankton and microphytobenthos, often coinciding with shifts in species composition within the primary producer community. Consequences of increasing eutrophication for higher trophic levels are still being disputed, and even less is known about the consequences of nutrient reduction on coastal food webs. Here, we present 30-year concurrent field observations on phytoplankton, macrozoobenthos and estuarine birds in the Dutch Wadden Sea, which has been subject to decades of nutrient enrichment and subsequent nutrient reduction. We demonstrate that long-term variations in limiting nutrients (phosphate and silicon) were weakly correlated with biomass and more strongly with community structures of phytoplankton, macrozoobenthos and estuarine birds. Although we cannot conclusively determine if, and if so to what extent, nutrient enrichment and subsequent nutrient reduction actually contributed to the concurrent trends in these communities, it appears likely that part of the variance in the studied coastal communities is related to changes in nutrient loads. Our results imply that nutrient reduction measures should not ignore the potential consequences for policies aimed at bird conservation and exploitation of marine living resources.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)95-118
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2007


  • dutch wadden sea
  • suspension-feeding bivalves
  • macoma-balthica
  • north-sea
  • marine-phytoplankton
  • cerastoderma-edule
  • filtration-rate
  • burying depth
  • mya-arenaria
  • body-weight

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