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China's rapid ascent to global economic superpower is taking a toll on some of its ancient ways. For millennia, people have patterned their lives and diets around the vast fisheries of the East China Sea, but now those waters are increasingly threatened by human-caused, harmful algal blooms that choke off vital fish populations, according to a new study led by researchers at the University of California, Irvine.
"There has been massive growth in emissions from China's factories and cars over the past few decades, and what comes out of the smokestacks and tailpipes tends to be richer in nitrogen than phosphorus," said Katherine Mackey, assistant professor of Earth system science at UCI and lead author of the study, published recently in Frontiers in Marine Science.
Mackey - Colleagues - Woods - Hole - Oceanographic
Mackey and colleagues at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, China's Fudan University and Nanjing University, and UC Santa Cruz studied the deposition of particles in the ocean downwind of China's enormous industrial and population centers. They found that the winds carried an overabundance of nutrients offshore, where they fell into water to be taken up by marine organisms. That, together with runoff from rivers flowing into the sea, is causing changes to the region's ecology. Certain aquatic plants and plankton thrive on the extra nutrients, for instance, crowding out others and wreaking havoc among ocean-dwelling species' normal ratios.
"When you start having changes in the food web, you can see differences in the fish catch," Mackey said. "Harmful algal blooms and nuisance species that are cropping up can produce toxins or just aren't the type of food fish prefer to eat, so people have been noticing changes in...
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