Intensification of phosphorus cycling in China since the 1600s

Xin Liu, Hu Sheng, Songyan Jiang, Zengwei Yuan, Chaosheng Zhang, James Elser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

45 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Phosphorus (P) is an essential nutrient for living systems with emerging sustainability challenges related to supply uncertainty and aquatic eutrophication. However, its long-term temporal dynamics and subsequent effects on freshwater ecosystems are still unclear. Here, we quantify the P pathways across China over the past four centuries with a life cycle process-balanced model and evaluate the concomitant potential for eutrophication with a spatial resolution of 5 arc-minutes in 2012. We find that P cycling in China has been artificially intensified during this period to sustain the increasing population and its demand for animal protein-based diets, with continuous accumulations in inland waters and lands. In the past decade, China's international trade of P involves net exports of P chemicals and net imports of downstream crops, specifically soybeans from the United States, Brazil, and Argentina. The contribution of crop products to per capita food P demand, namely, the P directly consumed by humans, declined from over 98% before the 1950s to 76%in 2012, even though there was little change in per capita food P demand. Anthropogenic P losses to freshwater and their eutrophication potential clustered in wealthy coastal regions with dense populations. We estimate that Chinese P reserve depletion could be postponed for over 20 y by more efficient life cycle P management. Our results highlight the importance of closing the P cycle to achieve the cobenefits of P resource conservation and eutrophication mitigation in the world's most rapidly developing economy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2609-2614
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Volume113
Issue number10
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 8 2016

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Eutrophication
Phosphorus
China
Life Cycle Stages
Fresh Water
Food
Argentina
Soybeans
Population
Uncertainty
Ecosystem
Brazil
Diet
Water
Proteins

Keywords

  • Eutrophication
  • Food production
  • Industrial ecology
  • Phosphorus cycling
  • Sustainability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

Cite this

Intensification of phosphorus cycling in China since the 1600s. / Liu, Xin; Sheng, Hu; Jiang, Songyan; Yuan, Zengwei; Zhang, Chaosheng; Elser, James.

In: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, Vol. 113, No. 10, 08.03.2016, p. 2609-2614.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Liu, Xin ; Sheng, Hu ; Jiang, Songyan ; Yuan, Zengwei ; Zhang, Chaosheng ; Elser, James. / Intensification of phosphorus cycling in China since the 1600s. In: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 2016 ; Vol. 113, No. 10. pp. 2609-2614.
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