Environmental Health and the Coastal Zone: Maintaining the Integrity and Health of the Coastal Zone Is Essential to the Quality of Marine Biological Resources and, Ultimately, of Human Life. (Guest Editorial)

By Stegeman, John J.; Solow, Andrew R. | Environmental Health Perspectives, November 2002 | Go to article overview

Environmental Health and the Coastal Zone: Maintaining the Integrity and Health of the Coastal Zone Is Essential to the Quality of Marine Biological Resources and, Ultimately, of Human Life. (Guest Editorial)


Stegeman, John J., Solow, Andrew R., Environmental Health Perspectives


The intersection of human health and the ocean occurs overwhelmingly in the coastal zone. The coastal zone extends from the upland penetration of tidal rivers to the edge of the continental shelf, which can extend 100 miles or more beyond the coast itself. The world's coastlines, including temperate, tropical, and polar coasts, have been estimated to total about 372,000 miles (Smithsonian Institution 2002). The coastal ocean, the most biologically productive part of the marine environment, supports a dazzling level of biological diversity, including coral reefs, marine mammals, and economically important fisheries.

Major portions of marine resources harvested are from the coastal zone. These resources include food as well as material resources used in industrial and biomedical applications. One example of the latter is the production of Limulus amoebocyte lysate, proteins from the blood of horseshoe crabs, used clinically to detect endotoxins in intravenous fluids. The value of all marine ecologic resources and services from the coastal zone has been estimated to be $21 trillion (McGinn 2002).

The recently convened Presidential Ocean Commission (U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy 2002) has received reports that there are serious threats to the coastal environment from coastal population growth, pollution, and over-fishing. Approximately 50% of the world's population lives within 200 km of the coast, and this percentage is expected to increase in the future. This large and growing population affects the coastal ocean in a number of ways, including nutrient loading, toxic contamination, and habitat alteration. Each of these has effects on coastal ecosystems and on the health and economic well-being of human populations living near the coast.

A variety of human activities contribute nitrogen, phosphorus, and other nutrients to the coastal ocean: for example, the agricultural and residential use of fertilizer, the disposal of human and animal waste, and the burning of fossil fuels. These nutrients are carried to the ocean by groundwater and surface water, as well as through atmospheric deposition. Nutrient loading to the coastal ocean has also increased with the loss of wetlands that can intercept and utilize nutrients before they reach the ocean.

In the coastal ocean, nutrients stimulate the growth of phytoplankton or algae, marine plants that form the base of the marine food web. This can have benign or even beneficial effects; it is no coincidence that some of the most productive fisheries in the world are near the mouths of rivers that carry nutrients to the ocean. However, nutrient loading can cause serious problems. Thus, many species of algae produce toxins that threaten both human health and the health of marine organisms. The frequency and geographic distribution of these so-called harmful algal blooms appear to have increased over recent decades, and this increase may be due to increased nutrient-loading.

Excess growth of phytoplankton can also cause clogging of corals and other coastal environments that serve as habitat for fish, seabirds, and other animals. Another serious problem can occur when large quantities of phytoplankton die and sink to the bottom, where they decay through the action of aerobic bacteria. If the quantity of phytoplankton is large, then, under certain oceanographic conditions, oxygen in the bottom waters is depleted leading to environmental hypoxia. In the United States, the best-known hypoxic area is off the coast of Louisiana; this so-called Dead Zone is caused by the discharge of nutrients to the Gulf of Mexico by the Mississippi River. Since its discovery, the Dead Zone has grown to the size of New Jersey. Hypoxia can result in the loss of commercial species and large-scale changes in the biological communities that inhabit the seafloor.

As with nutrients, toxic pollution in the marine environment is of greatest concern in the coastal ocean, where chemicals may affect animal populations and may be vectored to human consumers. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Environmental Health and the Coastal Zone: Maintaining the Integrity and Health of the Coastal Zone Is Essential to the Quality of Marine Biological Resources and, Ultimately, of Human Life. (Guest Editorial)
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.