Handling the phosphorus paradox in agriculture and natural ecosystems: Scarcity, necessity, and burden of P

Ambio. 2018 Jan;47(Suppl 1):3-19. doi: 10.1007/s13280-017-0968-9.


This special issue of Ambio compiles a series of contributions made at the 8th International Phosphorus Workshop (IPW8), held in September 2016 in Rostock, Germany. The introducing overview article summarizes major published scientific findings in the time period from IPW7 (2015) until recently, including presentations from IPW8. The P issue was subdivided into four themes along the logical sequence of P utilization in production, environmental, and societal systems: (1) Sufficiency and efficiency of P utilization, especially in animal husbandry and crop production; (2) P recycling: technologies and product applications; (3) P fluxes and cycling in the environment; and (4) P governance. The latter two themes had separate sessions for the first time in the International Phosphorus Workshops series; thus, this overview presents a scene-setting rather than an overview of the latest research for these themes. In summary, this paper details new findings in agricultural and environmental P research, which indicate reduced P inputs, improved management options, and provide translations into governance options for a more sustainable P use.

Keywords: Cropping system; Eutrophication; Fertilizer; Governance; P efficiency; Plant nutrition.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture*
  • Animal Husbandry*
  • Animals
  • Ecosystem*
  • Fertilizers
  • Germany
  • Phosphorus


  • Fertilizers
  • Phosphorus