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Phosphorus, food security, and UNEP

August 25, 2010

Greetings from Prague! For the past three days, I have been a part of the expert writing team for the 2011 UNEP Year Book. SCOPE and UNEP chose three topics to cover in the 2011 edition: (1) plastics in the ocean, (2) forests and biodiversity, and (3) phosphorus and food security. I am a part of the team working on #3. We are a group of seven scientists, representing the fields of soil science, agronomy, sustainability, ecology, limnology, and natural resource use, and coming from across the globe. If you have read this blog before, you know well why phosphorus is related to food security: it is a finite resource that may be in limited supply, it is absolutely essential for growing crops, and it is distributed unequally across the globe. For my portion, I am trying to tie in the environmental aspect of phosphorus use. When improperly managed, phosphorus leaks (or is directly dumped!) into our waterways. This can lead to eutrophication and variety of ecological ills including harmful algal blooms, unsafe drinking water, and fish kills. In other words, if an impending phosphorus peak is not enough to make you consider closely the importance of sustainable phosphorus use, then perhaps safe drinking water is. Tomorrow, we will wrap up our section of the paper and turn over our recommendations to SCOPE and UNEP. Watch for postings about the publication in January or February 2011.

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