Recent studies show that wildlife responds to phosphorus stress


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Modern agriculture is supported by a constant supply of nutrients. However, one of the most important components of the fertilizer, phosphorus, is running high, putting pressure and financial burden on farmers around the world. Now, with the war in Europe further straining supplies, declining phosphorus reserves could change the world’s ability to feed itself.

Phosphorus is used from rocks and is often used in agriculture to help plants grow. However, most of these important nutrients fly from schools to nearby streams, where they are taken to the ocean and buried in deep ocean sediments. When the resources of the phosphorus-rich rock are depleted, the world is facing a shortage of this key nutrient.

In a new study published in Environmental scienceauthors Andrew Abraham, a post-doctoral researcher at Northern Arizona University’s School of Informatics, Computing, and Cyber ​​Systems, and Chris Doughty, associate professor of ecoinformatics, suggest an ancient solution to this global problem – wild animals.

“In the past, animals like whales, seabirds, fish and bears were important in returning phosphorus from the depths of the ocean to the land,” Abraham said. “In doing so, they also store this food in the biosphere, supporting a fertile world. Today, however, the depletion of species, the decline in population people and the construction of fences and dams has reduced this food delivery service by more than 90 percent. “

Without wildlife moving food around the Earth, phosphorus intake today is dominated by humans. However, misuse of agriculture can lead to significant losses in the ocean, which are widely dispersed and cannot be recovered with modern technology. So what can contribute to human loss of phosphorus in the ocean? This study presents a thought -provoking answer.

“Through our research, we were able to show that historically, wild animals carry as much phosphorus as other major fluids such as soil deposits and wildfires. , “said Abraham. “Importantly, however, wildlife can bring phosphorus back into the soil. By restoring it to neighboring animal communities, the old methods of natural fertilization can be revived, helping to conserve Something that cannot be changed. “

“Animals are like a natural ecosystem for phosphorus,” says lead author Joe Roman, a conservation biologist and researcher at the University of Vermont. “They can move food through their corpses, urine and dirt.”

Researchers hope that animal services will not only generate resources for farmers to use but also help increase the sustainability of natural ecosystems in the next century. . In the face of climate change and ecosystem degradation, this is critical to ensuring the long -term health of the planet.

Doughty, who wrote the study, thinks there may be an opportune time for a phosphorus trading system, with the corporate goal of keeping this important nutrient out of the ocean.

“If it’s easier or simpler to implement a biodiversity program that conserves the amount of phosphorus in ecosystems, a country or industry can implement such programs,” he said. .

Learning from previous experiments, the authors base their trading system on the current carbon market. In this way, the villagers can benefit directly, from fertilizing animals such as bird guano, or otherwise, by continuing to use digging and digging plants. relying on other countries to support a biodiversity project in the hopes of conserving phosphorus in the planet.

“Phosphorus is an important nutrient for human and natural systems. A defining characteristic of animals is their ability to move, affecting the land and sea on which they travel,” he said. and Abraham. “We will restore the wildlife population and restore natural phosphorus depletion so we can all benefit from a more prosperous world.”

The study shows that struvite is a good phosphorus source for plants

More information:
Andrew J. Abraham et al, The Sixth R: Regeneration of natural phosphorus depletion, Integrated Environmental Science (2022). DOI: 10.1016 / j.scitotenv.2022.155023

Presented by Northern Arizona University

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