Towards resolving the phosphorus chaos created by food systems

Withers, Paul J.A.; Forber, Kirsty G.; Lyon, Christopher; Rothwell, Shane; Doody, Donnacha G.; Jarvie, Helen P.; Martin-Ortega, Julia; Jacobs, Brent; Cordell, Dana; Patton, Myles; Camargo-Valero, Miller A.; Cassidy, Rachel. 2020 Towards resolving the phosphorus chaos created by food systems. Ambio, 49 (5). 1076-1089.

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The chaotic distribution and dispersal of phosphorus (P) used in food systems (defined here as disorderly disruptions to the P cycle) is harming our environment beyond acceptable limits. An analysis of P stores and flows across Europe in 2005 showed that high fertiliser P inputs relative to productive outputs was driving low system P efficiency (38 % overall). Regional P imbalance (P surplus) and system P losses were highly correlated to total system P inputs and animal densities, causing unnecessary P accumulation in soils and rivers. Reducing regional P surpluses to zero increased system P efficiency (+ 16 %) and decreased total P losses by 35 %, but required a reduction in system P inputs of ca. 40 %, largely as fertiliser. We discuss transdisciplinary and transformative solutions that tackle the P chaos by collective stakeholder actions across the entire food value chain. Lowering system P demand and better regional governance of P resources appear necessary for more efficient and sustainable food systems.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Water Resources (Science Area 2017-)
ISSN: 0044-7447
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: Open Access paper - full text available via Official URL link.
Additional Keywords: efficiency, eutrophication, food system, phosphorus, stakeholders, sustainability
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Date made live: 31 Oct 2019 10:59 +0 (UTC)

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