Navigation Links
World phosphorous use crosses critical threshold
Date:2/14/2011

MADISON Recalculating the global use of phosphorous, a fertilizer linchpin of modern agriculture, a team of researchers warns that the world's stocks may soon be in short supply and that overuse in the industrialized world has become a leading cause of the pollution of lakes, rivers and streams.

Writing in the Feb. 14 edition of the journal Environmental Research Letters, Stephen Carpenter of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Elena Bennett of McGill University report that the human use of phosphorous, primarily in the industrialized world, is causing the widespread eutrophication of fresh surface water. What's more, the minable global stocks of phosphorous are concentrated in just a few countries and are in decline, posing the risk of global shortages within the next 20 years.

"There is a finite amount of phosphorous in the world," says Carpenter, a UW-Madison professor of limnology and one of the world's leading authorities on lakes and streams. "This is a material that's becoming more rare and we need to use it more efficiently."

Phosphorous is an essential element for life. Living organisms, including humans, have small amounts and the element is crucial for driving the energetic processes of cells. In agriculture, phosphorous mined from ancient marine deposits is widely used to boost crop yields. The element also has other industrial uses.

But excess phosphorous from fertilizer that washes from farm fields and suburban lawns into lakes and streams is the primary cause of the algae blooms that throw freshwater ecosystems out of kilter and degrade water quality. Phosphorous pollution poses a risk to fish and other aquatic life as well as to the animals and humans who depend on clean fresh water. In some instances, excess phosphorous sparks blooms of toxic algae, which pose a direct threat to human and animal life.

"If you have too much phosphorous, you get eutrophication," explains Carpenter of the cycle of excessive plant and algae growth that significantly degrades bodies of fresh water. "Phosphorous stimulates the growth of algae and weeds near shore and some of the algae can contain cyanobacteria, which are toxic. You lose fish. You lose water quality for drinking."

The fertilizer-fueled algae blooms themselves amplify the problem as the algae die and release accumulated phosphorous back into the water.

Carpenter and Bennett write in their Environmental Research Letters report that the "planetary boundary for freshwater eutrophication has been crossed while potential boundaries for ocean anoxic events and depletion of phosphate rock reserves loom in the future."

Complicating the problem, says Carpenter, is the fact that excess phosphorous in the environment is a problem primarily in the industrialized world, mainly Europe, North America and parts of Asia. In other parts of the world, notably Africa and Australia, soils are phosphorous poor, creating a stark imbalance. Ironically, soils in places like North America, where fertilizers with phosphorous are most commonly applied, are already loaded with the element.

"Some soils have plenty of phosphorous, and some soils do not and you need to add phosphorous to grow crops on them," Carpenter notes. "It's this patchiness that makes the problem tricky."

Bennett and Carpenter argue that agricultural practices to better conserve phosphate within agricultural ecosystems are necessary to avert the widespread pollution of surface waters. Phosphorous from parts of the world where the element is abundant, they say, can be moved to phosphorous deficient regions of the world by extracting phosphorous from manure, for example, using manure digesters.

Deposits of phosphate, the form of the element that is mined for agriculture and other purposes, take many millions of years to form. The nations with the largest reserves of the element are the United States, China and Morocco.


'/>"/>

Contact: Steve Carpenter
srcarpen@wisc.edu
608-262-3014
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Cross-border conservation vital to protect birds in a climate-change world
2. VTT to study one of worlds oldest beers
3. Helping feed the world without polluting its waters
4. The world can be powered by alternative energy, using todays technology, in 20-40 years
5. Researchers find smoking gun of worlds biggest extinction
6. UC Davis study shows plants moved downhill, not up, in warming world
7. US launches International Year of Chemistry Feb. 1 with panel of world-renowned chemists
8. IVF breakthrough to hit the world market
9. Co-management holds promise of sustainable fisheries worldwide
10. New vaccine to assist worldwide eradication of polio
11. Climate scientist warns world of widespread suffering if further climate change is not forestalled
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:4/3/2017)... WASHINGTON , April 3, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ ... single-cell precision engineering platform, detected a statistically ... cell product prior to treatment and objective ... highlight the potential to predict whether cancer ... prior to treatment, as well as to ...
(Date:3/28/2017)... India , March 28, 2017 ... IP, Biometrics), Hardware (Camera, Monitors, Servers, Storage Devices), Software ... Vertical, and Region - Global Forecast to 2022", published ... Billion in 2016 and is projected to reach USD ... between 2017 and 2022. The base year considered for ...
(Date:3/23/2017)... DUBLIN , Mar. 23, 2017 Research ... Anti-Theft System Market Analysis & Trends - Industry Forecast to 2025" ... ... to grow at a CAGR of around 8.8% over the next ... This industry report analyzes the market estimates and forecasts for all ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:4/19/2017)... ... 2017 , ... Optofluidics today announced that it's changing its ... changed focus to making analytical tools for biopharmaceutical quality control. “We are excited ... Robert Hart. Founders Bernardo Cordovez, Robert Hart and David Erickson have steered the ...
(Date:4/19/2017)... (PRWEB) , ... April 19, 2017 , ... ... Clostridium difficile (C. diff) infections through education and advocacy. Founded in 2010 ... to a C. diff infection, the foundation has become the most-consulted source for ...
(Date:4/19/2017)... , April 19, 2017  As a ... and Heroin Summit ,  Proove® Biosciences, Inc. ... genetics, environmental, and lifestyle factors to accurately predict ... University of Southern California (USC), the Interventional Pain ... Proove publish results showing that Proove Opioid Risk® ...
(Date:4/19/2017)... WALTHAM, Mass. , April 19, 2017 /PRNewswire/ ... that results from the multi-center Procalcitonin MOnitoring SEpsis ... 2017 print issue of Critical Care Medicine ... Predicts Mortality in Severe Sepsis Patients: Results From ... the use of the B·R·A·H·M·S PCT (procalcitonin) assay ...
Breaking Biology Technology: