Friday, January 26, 2018

Phosphorus Pollution Reaching Dangerous Levels Worldwide

Phosphorus Pollution
Human-made phosphorus pollution is reaching dangerously high levels in freshwater basins around the world, according to new research.

A new study published in Water Resources Research, a journal of the American Geophysical Union, estimated the global amount of phosphorus from human activities that entered Earth's freshwater bodies from 2002 to 2010.

Phosphorus is a common component of mineral and manure fertilizers because it boosts crop yields. However, a large portion of phosphorus applied as fertilizer is not taken up by plants, and either builds up in the soil or washes into rivers, lakes and coastal seas, according to the study's authors.

The results of the new study show global human activity emitted 1.47 teragrams (1.62 million U.S. tons) of phosphorus per year into the world's major freshwater basins, four times greater than the weight of the Empire State Building, Science Daily reported.

The study also assessed whether human activity had surpassed the Earth's ability to dilute and assimilate excess levels of phosphorus in fresh water bodies. The authors found phosphorus load exceeded the assimilation capacity of freshwater bodies in 38 percent of Earth's land surface, an area housing 90 percent of the global human population.

"In many areas of the world either there's not enough water to assimilate the phosphorus or the pollution load is so huge that the water system can't assimilate everything," said Mesfin Mekonnen, a post-doctoral research associate at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln and co-author of the new study.

The study's results indicate freshwater bodies in areas with high water pollution levels are likely to suffer from eutrophication, or an excess level of nutrients, due to high phosphorus levels, said Joep Schyns, a researcher in the field of water management at the University of Twente in Enschede, the Netherlands, who was not connected to the new study.

"Eutrophication due to phosphorus pollution causes algal blooms, which can lead to the mortality of fish and plants due to lack of oxygen and light," Schyns said. "It also reduces the use of the water for human purposes such as consumption and swimming."

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