The spatial variability of soil phosphorus- what controls it?

The recently published paper ‘Spatial variability of soil phosphorus in the Fribourg canton, Switzerland’ by Roger et al. (Geoderma, 2014) was discussed at our first meeting.

To summarise, a spatial investigation of the different phosphorus forms (total, organic and available) across 250 sites (FRIBO network) was carried out. Their results suggested that within agricultural soils the highest mean values of available P were found in cropland (2.12-81.3mg kg-1), whilst mean total P values were found to be most abundant in permanent grasslands (1186 mg kg-1).  It was also suggested that available P appeared more sensitive to extrinsic factors (land use) than total P. They also suggested that the study in China by Liu et al. (Geoderma, 2013) reinforced their hypothesis that environmental conditions (such as temperature and precipitation) have less of an impact than farming practices (e.g. fertilisation), which leads to this difference in P abundance among land use. But what do you think??

This study is another, however, that highlights the importance of ‘legacy P’ (historic land use) when attempting to tackle the diffuse agricultural P pollution problem. Perhaps we may ask whether these results are the same in other systems? This study may be a coarse resolution, but is geostatistics a positive way forward? And can we use this information to move forward – will it call for more localised policies and practices?

Our First Meeting

Yesterday we had our first ever Lancaster Phosphorus Community meeting! And the ice could only be broken by some good quality cake!

We want our pages to be open to all who are interested in gaining an insight into the world of phosphorus at Lancaster, whether you are an academic or not! So there is lots to come…

The best quote from our meeting was from Hao Zhang…

“Hao, what exactly is DGT?”


DGT actually stands for Diffusive Gradient Thin films, it’s a technique that has been developed by Lancaster’s Hao Zhang and Bill Davison. It was patented in 1993 and now used worldwide as a method of measuring phosphates, sulphides, metals and radionuclides, with a range of applications in soils, sediments and water!

Thank you to everyone who was there we look forward to next time!