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Science. 1998 Jul 10;281(5374):217-21.

Nutrient Biogeochemistry of the Coastal Zone

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The author is in School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich, NR4 7TJ, UK. E-mail:


The coastal seas are one of the most valuable and vulnerable of Earth's habitats. Significant inputs of nutrients to the coastal zone arrive via rivers, groundwater, and the atmosphere. Nutrient fluxes through these routes have been increased by human activity. In addition, the N:P:Si ratios of these inputs have been perturbed, and many coastal management practices exacerbate these perturbations. There is evidence of impacts arising from these changes (in phytoplankton numbers and relative species abundance, and deep-water oxygen declines) in areas of restricted water exchange. Elsewhere, the nutrient fluxes through the coastal zone appear to be still dominated by large inputs from the open ocean, and there is little evidence of anthropogenic perturbations.


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