Courtesy of Charles S. Hopkinson Jr.

Brackish tidal marsh along the Plum Island estuary in northeastern Massachusetts
Lessons learned decades ago resurfaced this spring when the National Research Council of the National Academies issued a report calling for a nationwide plan to combat the nitrogen and phosphorus pollution threatening U.S. coastal waters. Lesson one: Ecosystems are interdependent. Lesson two: Virtually every human being is part of the problem and can be part of the solution.

"We believe that this excess nutrient pollution is the biggest pollution problem of the coastal waters, and it is a national problem," contends Robert W. Howarth, professor of ecology and environmental biology at Cornell University. Howarth chaired the NRC committee that prepared the report "Clean Coastal Waters: Understanding and Reducing the Effects of Nutrient Pollution," which called for the formation of the National Coastal Nutrient Management Strategy. The report is available online at

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