According to UNEP, about 80% of marine pollution comes from land and has anthropogenic origin. Much of toxic substances issued or present in a watershed eventually reach the marine environment through rivers, canals and lagoons. These toxic substances nave mostly industrial (hydrocarbons, heavy metals, chemicals, radionuclides …) or agricultural (nutrients, fertilizers, pesticides …) origins or were simply discharged by the inhabitants directly into the watershed (solid or liquid waste, plant residues, wastewater, pollutants contained in the water runoff …).
Substances a priori non-harmful may constitute pollution, since the quantities introduced into the marine environment may be beyond the absorptive capacity of the environment. This is the case when clays and other mineral suspended particles abnormally increase turbidity of water in areas of erosion, and sometimes silt up seabed, corals, plants, etc.
This is also the case when nutrients (e.g., nitrates and phosphates), massively lost by intensive farming or sewage treatment, these substances can cause the phenomena of eutrophication, reflected for example by the appearance of green algae or microalgae (phytoplankton) that some species secrete toxins, leading locally to the death of most marine organisms .
These three phenomena are often combined.
In addition, there exists permanent exchange between the air and sea. Air may transfer to the sea some pollutants (suspended particles, vapor, and other gaseous substances, aerosols …), mainly because of precipitation (wet or dry) and conversely, the “biofilm” some microns thick, which is formed on the surface of the water when not stirred certain pollutants can concentrate (particular, substances hydrophobic or lighter than water). Under the combined effect of waves, wind and heat of the sun, these pollutants can be reissued in the air as vapor or via aerosols generated by sea spray.
Much of pollutants are introduced into the overhead compartment of the marine environment from land-based human activities (exhaust gas, ammonia, unburned hydrocarbons, incinerator emissions, industries, etc.). There are also natural sources of pollution (volcanoes, forest fires …). A long part was moving motorized ocean sources. The boat incinerators no longer exist, but the merchant and military fleet, as well as some passenger ships and tugs (over 90,000 ships over 101 tons gauge gross operating in 2004) emit a significant part of the Air flowing pollution over the sea.
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