JOURNAL ARTICLE

Sustainable use of phosphorus: a finite resource

Roland W Scholz, Andrea E Ulrich, Marjatta Eilittä, Amit Roy
Science of the Total Environment 2013 September 1, 461: 799-803
23769630
Phosphorus is an essential element of life and of the modern agricultural system. Today, science, policy, agro-industry and other stakeholder groups are increasingly concerned about the sustainable use of this resource, given the dissipative nature of phosphorus and difficulties in assessing, evaluating, and coping with phosphorus pollution in aquatic and terrestrial systems. We argue that predictions about a forthcoming peak, followed by a quick reduction (i.e., physical phosphate rock scarcity) are unreasoned and stress that access to phosphorus (economic scarcity) is already, and may increasingly become critical, in particular for smallholders farmers in different parts of the world. The paper elaborates on the design, development, goals and cutting-edge contributions of a global transdisciplinary process (i.e. mutual learning between science and society including multiple stakeholders) on the understanding of potential contributions and risks related to the current mode of using phosphorus on multiple scales (Global TraPs). While taking a global and comprehensive view on the whole phosphorus-supply chain, Global TraPs organizes and integrates multiple transdisciplinary case studies to better answer questions which inform sustainable future phosphorus use. Its major goals are to contribute to four issues central to sustainable resource management: i) long-term management of biogeochemical cycles, in particular the challenge of closing the phosphorus cycle, ii) achieving food security, iii) avoiding environmental pollution and iv) sustainability learning on a global level by transdisciplinary processes.

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