RCN-SEES: Coordinating Phosphorus Research to Create a Sustainable Food System

Project: Research project

Description

Phosphorus (P) is an essential element to life and, with few exceptions, a necessary fertilizer for high agricultural yield. Because P cannot be manufactured and global supply is limited, this chemical element poses a unique, double-sided threat to sustainability. P scarcity leads to high prices and poverty for poor farmers in developing countries, but in industrialized nations, excess P from farms and in urban waste streams degrades downstream water quality. The issues surrounding P sustainability are deeply complex and involve diverse geological, biogeochemical, economic, and geopolitical dimensions that are currently unconsolidated. Environmental degradation due to nutrient runoff and potential threats to global food security urgently call for an end to this disjointed approach to phosphorus. The goal of the Phosphorus Research Coordination Network (RCN) is to spark an interdisciplinary synthesis of data, perspectives, and understanding about phosphorus to identify and implement solutions for P sustainability. The RCN theme, objectives, and initial topics build upon broad agreement on key P sustainability challenges reached at a recent Sustainable P Summit (SPS) co-led by PI Elser. Identified core participants will meet at a Kick-Off Workshop to form working groups around the Grand Challenges identified in the SPS: P efficiency and P recycling. These Working Groups will then recruit additional members to fill out needed expertise and subsequently meet using videoconferencing and in-person meetings (at ASU, Tempe, AZ) to produce agreed-upon deliverables in Phase I (first 2.5 years). To launch Phase II, a Synthesis Workshop will be held for the Working Groups to report back and for new Working Groups to be formed around the third Grand Challenge: Integrating P efficiency and recycling. As before, Working Groups will add members and meet in-person and via videoconferencing to produce outputs. Core members were chosen based on expertise in P sustainability with representation in three disciplinary areas: Economics, Social, and Political Science; Agriculture and Ecosystems; and Engineering and Urban Systems. A graduate student representative was chosen for each disciplinary area. In Year 5, a Wrap Up Workshop will be held to synthesize the science and solution-based outcomes from Phase I and II Working Groups.
StatusFinished
Effective start/end date9/1/128/31/18

Funding

  • National Science Foundation (NSF): $750,000.00

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sustainability
phosphorus
food
recycling
urban system
chemical element
environmental degradation
food security
economics
poverty
student
developing world
co-ordination
fertilizer
farm
runoff
agriculture
water quality
engineering
nutrient