Subject to much recent media attention, Nutrient Neutrality is an environmental land management mechanism which aims to mitigate the impacts of excess chemicals and nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus on ecosystems. The concept applies principally to the conservation of aquatic ecosystems such as those found in rivers, lakes and coastal areas. The aim of Nutrient Neutrality is to prevent harm to these ecosystems by balancing the nutrient level within these areas.
Most commonly, nutrient pollution exists in the form of excessive runoff from farms and water treatment plants causing problems like algal blooms, oxygen depletion (hypoxia), both of which contribute to the degradation of aquatic ecosystems. Not only does runoff affect wildlife, but nutrient pollution also causes major risk to human health.
To implement nutrient neutrality, a so-called ‘nutrient budget’ which defines the threshold of nutrients which can be safely released into the environment, is identified for a region. It is a requirement for landowners, businesses and developers in that region to calculate the amount of nutrients their activities are likely to generate, and identify the ways in which they will offset the release of these pollutants such as implementing measures elsewhere within the same watershed or affected ecosystem to reduce nutrient pollution. Nutrient offsetting projects can include creating wetlands or riparian buffer zones to support wildlife and enhance ecosystems.
To ensure that nutrient neutrality is maintained, the aforementioned stakeholders are required to report on nutrient reductions and how they are maintaining nutrient release within thresholds.