RONCILIONE / CAMPO DE CARTAGENA – The EU aims to reduce fertiliser overuse, but it faces the resistance of the industry and farmers alike. This investigation examines the cases of two hotspots in Italy and Spain, scrutinizing contamination drivers and assessing health, environmental, and economic consequences.

Chemical fertilisers are largely used for growing the food we eat every day: they are applied to vegetable and fruit crops and forage used to feed animals we eat. However, European food production has been using far more nutrients than the ecosystems can take in.

In lagoons like Mar Menor in Spain or volcanic lakes in Central Italy, elements like nitrogen and phosphate threaten natural ecosystems and human health. Algal blooms have become more frequent in the last years, causing eutrophication – a decrease in oxygen levels in water bodies.

Masses of dead fish reaching the shores brought indignation among citizens in Spain, where a popular initiative gave the legal tools to the ecosystem of Mar Menor to defend itself, the first legislation of this kind in Europe.  

By digging into environmental studies and legislation, Davide Mancini and Marcello Rossi intended to bring attention to long-lasting environmental issues that should be a concern to every country in Europe.

One such problem is eutrophication, a process that occurs when lakes, rivers, lagoons and other water reservoirs become over-rich in nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus. This influx results in algal blooms that deplete oxygen, harm aquatic life and release pernicious toxic compounds.

The phenomenon is widespread across Europe, with nutrient pollution events on the rise over the past decade.

Other than consequences of fertiliser use, the journalists also analysed regulatory challenges and potential mitigation solutions.

Photo from province of Murcia, Campo de Cartagena, by Davide Mancini.

Team members

Davide Mancini

Davide Mancini is an Italian freelance multimedia journalist focusing on environmental issues.

Davide Mancini

Marcello Rossi

Marcello Rossi is a freelance journalist based in Italy.

Marcello Rossi

Alberto Cairo

Alberto Cairo is a journalist and designer leading graphics and visualization teams in several countries.

Alberto Cairo
€11,850 allocated on 28/08/2023



  • Italy
  • Spain

need resources for your own investigative story?

Journalismfund Europe's flexible grants programmes enable journalists to produce relevant public interest stories with a European mind-set from international, national, and regional perspectives.


support independent cross-border investigative journalism

We rely on your support to continue the work that we do. Make a gift of any amount today.