Events like the current unrest in Egypt and the linkage to food security issues illustrate the fragility and interconnectedness of the world food supply. Corman and Wyant point out that more than 40 countries experienced food riots in 2008 due to rising food prices, due in part to a 700 percent spike in phosphorus fertilizer costs. Moreover, phosphorus resources are limited to five countries in the world, with the bulk of the world's resources held by Morocco.
Despite the United States being amongst the highest consumers of P, the depletion of phosphorus supplies and the potential opportunities to close the human P cycle have largely gone unnoticed, says Corman. However, positive change can be found, for example, in Sweden, where the environmental protection agency has set a goal to recycle 60 percent of P from sewage sludge by 2015.
"We are at a juncture in the issue of P sustainability where positive solutions are still attainable," says Wyant.
"The global scale and importance of P sustainability make it essential to address this issue with international and transdisciplinary collaborations," Corman says. "Better measures are needed to conserve, recover, and recycle P. The time has come to close the human phosphorus cycle."
To aid in building a platform for dialogue now that the summit has passed, Cordell and White have launched the Global Phosphorus Network (http://globalpnetwork.net/), a resource to connect those interested in issues surrounding phosphorus sustainability and foster the new transdisciplinary research and solutions identified during the summit.
"This problem is multidimensional and requires insights and perspectives from all areas of human endeavor," says Arizona State's Elser.
"If you use a disciplinary hammer, everything looks like a nail," notes White, who delivered the summit's closing plenary talk
|Contact: Margaret Coulombe|
Arizona State University