How "leaky" is accumulated phosphorus in the Baltic Sea drainage basin?
What is it about?
We developed a model to understand phosphorus (P) dynamics for the entire drainage basin of the Baltic Sea since 1900. This model included a rapid transport pathway that represented sources such as runoff from cropland and a slow pathway that represented leakage from mobile legacy sources. The model suggests that loss from the mobile pool contributes about half of current waterborne inputs to the sea; as a result, it could be difficult to make substantial near-term reductions. However, there are opportunities to meet environmental goals by slowing the accumulation of P in the landscape and by implementing measures that address the rapid transport pathway, such runoff from cropland, and the mobile stores, such as cropland with large soil-P reserves.
Why is it important?
All life depends on phosphorus (P), which is why it is an important crop fertilizer. Humans generally consume more P than needed and the excess ends up in sewage systems. Past management of P in fertilizer and human sewage has led to the accumulation of P in soils and sediments of lakes and streams. This accumulation is called “legacy” P because it can leak for decades to downstream lakes and coastal areas where it contributes to environmental problems.
The following have contributed to this page: Dr Michelle L McCrackin
In partnership with:
American Geophysical Union (AGU)