Aquatic Ecosystem Pollution Learn how to correctly analyse this topic.

Victoria Schoenlaub

7 min Read Time | August 10th 2021

Key Takeaways


Aquatic pollution can take different shapes and sizes.


The impact can take place on biodiversity and society, and human health.


It is important to assess the breadth, the depth, and the persistence of aquatic pollution to gauge the significance of the issue.

What is it?

Pollutants entering a river can be washed away to sea or degraded by microorganisms present in the river. Excess pollution in a river can damage the plant and animal life present in the river by reducing its oxygen content.

Here are five sources of anthropogenic (caused by humans) pollution that affect marine and freshwater ecosystems:

Different pollutants affect the aquatic environment in different ways. While at low concentrations, many pollutants (e.g., organic materials, Nitrogen, and Phosphorous) may be beneficial, they can adversely affect ecosystems at high levels. Excess nitrate can be particularly harmful to babies.

Many of the toxic pollutants in effluents are synthetic, and therefore do not biodegrade naturally.

The effects of physical pollution on a river system's ecology can be complex, affecting the different species’ feeding and breeding habits.

Also, biological pollutants can spread diseases through water and also disrupt the ecology.

Therefore, wastewater pollution leads to the killing/harming of life below water, destroys other forms of aquatic life, and damages habitats.

Open Learn’s course on Effects of pollutants on the aquatic environment offers more information, as well as a useful table that classifies pollutants and their impact.




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Impact assessment

In your analysis, you should explore the contamination, pollution, and/or destruction of natural habitats and the wildlife that lives there.

It should mention where the pollution is coming from, its substance/type, and the quantity.

Describe the scale of the impact by taking into account:

1/ The breadth of the impact

  • Is the impact local, national, or global?

  • How many water bodies and species are affected?

2/ The depth of the impact

  • Is the life of species concerned deeply affected, or are does the issue just marginally impact them?

3/ The persistence of the impact

  • How long would the impact described last for? Months? Years? Decades?

  • How reversible is the impact described in the impact analysis? Can it be easily stopped/extended?

To help readers rate the company’s impact, link studies that have researched the effects of such pollutants discharged by the company and quantified them.

If the impact on the ecosystem is not significant but is on the quality of water, head to our article on Water Pollution& Discharge.


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