Welcome to the Lancaster University Phosphorus Community blog!
We are a group of students, researchers and professors who are passionate about our environment and the role phosphorus takes in its quality, productivity and sustainability now and in the future. We meet every month eat cake, drink tea and discuss phosphorus! We will be posting the results of our meetings and our activities on our respective projects, we hope you enjoy following us!
So what is phosphorus and why is it important?
Phosphorus is an essential element for all forms of life.
It’s actually, and to quote astrobiologist Douglas Whittet here:
“The only biogenic element [out of the other five] present in the human body (and in biological tissue generally) at a concentration substantially above its solar abundance is P. If one were to attempt to place an upper limit on the total biomass present in the Universe at large, on the bases of cosmic abundances, then the critical element would be phosphorus.”
We are therefore inherently reliant on phosphorus to eat! Indeed ~90% of global phosphorus demand is for food production, that’s about 148 million tonnes of phosphate rock per year, that’s probably about 11 400 000 truck loads…
But food production must increase to feed our growing global population, so it is thought that phosphorus demand will increase 50-100% as a result! This demand isn’t equally distributed globally, here in the West (Europe and North America) for example we have a history of over application, resulting in issues such as ‘legacy’ phosphorus in soils and eutrophication in our water courses. Posing challenges for scientists, such as ourselves, to disentangle the mystery of the phosphorus continuum in order for farmers and utility companies to comply with policies at no economic cost.
Have a look here if you want to learn more about the phosphorus debate!
What do we do here at Lancaster?
There are a number of exciting projects running at Lancaster University relating to phosphorus, soil, water, plants and well the whole catchment system! But here are a few examples of what some of us do…
- The River Eden Demonstration Test Catchment (EdenDTC) is a Defra funded project which is part of a wider DTC consortium throughout the UK. It’s looking into how to mitigate diffuse pollution from agriculture whilst maintaining productivity.
- Estimating Nutrient Transport in Catchments until 2050 (NUTCAT2050) is a Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) under the Changing Water Cycles Programme (CWC) funded project. Here we are looking into how changing climate and land use will affect nutrient runoff into rivers and its subsequent effect on water quality.
- UK-China Sustainable Agricultural Innovation Network (SAIN) is a project looking at the cycling of nitrogen and phosphorus in crops and livestock systems in order to quantify stocks and fluxes.