Nutrients are important in an aquatic ecosystem because they are the "food" for animals at the base of the food chain such as phytoplankton and zooplankton. The availability of nutrients can be an important factor in the amount of animals and plants that an ecosystem can sustain. While nutrients are very important, too much of certain nutrients can be harmful for an ecosystem and can be an indicator of pollution. Nitrates and nitrites are commonly used in fertilizers and runoff into waterways during times of heavy rains. High levels of nitrates and nitrites contribute to algal blooms, which can create hypoxic zones, or areas without enough dissolved oxygen to support marine life.
The normal level of nitrite/nitrate elements in Galveston Bay is 0.26 ppm.
Artist Boat students use instant test strips (similar to those used by home aquarium owners) to test nitrate/nitrite levels: