World Phosphorus Use Exceeds Planetary Boundaries
Published On: 2/16/2011
A new paper in Environmental Research Letters reports that the upper tolerable limit for P input to freshwaters have been exceeded.
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. 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.
Carpenter and Bennett 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, which could mitigate eutrophication in some regions, increase agricultural yield in others, and delay or avoid global P shortage.
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