Changing climate will lead to devastating loss of phosphorus from soil

Apr 15, 2009

Crop growth, drinking water and recreational water sports could all be adversely affected if predicted changes in rainfall patterns over the coming years prove true, according to research published this month in Biology and Fertility of Soils.

Scientists from Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)-funded North Wyke Research have found for the first time that the rate at which a dried is rewetted impacts on the amount of phosphorus lost from the soil into surface and subsequently into the surrounding environment.

Dr Martin Blackwell who is one of the project leaders said: "Our preliminary results show that despite best efforts, the changing climate may limit our ability to mitigate phosphorus losses at certain times of the year, especially summer.

"This is really worrying because high phosphorus concentrations in surface waters can lead to which can be toxic, cause lack of oxygen during their decay and disrupt food webs. This can also affect the quality of water for drinking and result in the closure of recreational water sport facilities."

Under laboratory conditions Dr Blackwell and his team re-wet dried samples of UK grassland soil over different time periods, ranging from two hours to 24 hours using the same quantity of water. The leachate - water that has washed through the soil - was then analysed for phosphorus. The study showed that the rate at which a dried soil is rewetted affects the concentration and forms of phosphorus lost in leachate which could potentially contaminate surface water bodies (e.g. and lakes).

The current research looked at only one soil type so it is not yet known whether other soil types would react in the same way. This is what Dr Blackwell and his team will look at next.

Commenting on the findings, Prof Douglas Kell BBSRC Chief Executive said: "If we are to ensure safe and sufficient food and water supplies in the future then we must be absolutely clear on the challenges that a presents us. Having this information now means that we can be prepared to deal with the consequences of altered rainfall patterns at a local, national and international level to secure harvests and protect water supplies."

More information: This work is published in the journal Biology and Fertility of Soils. To view the paper online visit www.springerlink.com/content/m518138780326733/?p=5fb100b6878d4285b76bede4a9534b32π=1

Source: Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (news : web)

Explore further: Gimmicks and technology: California learns to save water

Related Stories

Where is your soil water? Crop yield has the answer

Jul 01, 2008

Crop yield is highly dependent on soil plant-available water, the portion of soil water that can be taken up by plant roots. Quantitative determination of the maximum amount of plant-available water in soil using traditional ...

Noxious algae gone, but who knows how long

Jan 03, 2007

Recent storms may have washed away algae blooms in a Florida chain of lakes, but experts said algae threats remain because of pollution feeding the lakes.

Is your drinking water safe?

Feb 28, 2008

Lake Bloomington is a major source of drinking water for residents of Bloomington, IL, and has a history of nitrate concentrations that exceed safe levels. Because Lake Bloomington has a record of elevated nitrate levels, ...

Tracking poultry litter phosphorus: Threat of accumulation?

Jan 28, 2009

The Delmarva Peninsula, flanking the eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay, is home to some 600 million chickens. The resulting poultry manure and some of the chicken house bedding material is usually composted and then spread ...

Recycled garden compost reduces phosphorus in soils

Jun 01, 2007

Broccoli, eggplant, cabbage and capsicum grown with compost made from recycled garden offcuts have produced equivalent yields to those cultivated by conventional farm practice, but without the subsequent build up of phosphorus.

Recommended for you

Gimmicks and technology: California learns to save water

1 hour ago

Billboards and TV commercials, living room visits, guess-your-water-use booths, and awards for water stinginess—a wealthy swath of Orange County that once had one of the worst records for water conservation ...

Cities, regions call for 'robust' world climate pact

2 hours ago

Thousands of cities, provinces and states from around the world urged national governments on Thursday to deliver a "robust, binding, equitable and universal" planet-saving climate pact in December.

Will climate change put mussels off the menu?

2 hours ago

Climate change models predict that sea temperatures will rise significantly, including in the tropics. In these areas, rainfall is also predicted to increase, reducing the salt concentration of the surface ...

As nations dither, cities pick up climate slack

14 hours ago

Their national governments hamstrung by domestic politics, stretched budgets and diplomatic inertia, many cities and provinces have taken a leading role—driven by necessity—in efforts to arrest galloping ...

Should we all escape to the country during a heatwave?

18 hours ago

A University of Birmingham research project has highlighted the potential health impacts of heatwaves in urbanised areas. By modelling the 2003 heatwave the researchers were able to identify areas where city centres were ...

User comments : 3

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

mikiwud
3.3 / 5 (3) Apr 15, 2009
Potentially. If. May. Nuf Sed!
rwinners
3.3 / 5 (3) Apr 15, 2009
Since the earth has been warmer, even in the tertiary, clearly, this is not a death sentence for life on earth. Perhaps it is for humanity, but... then again, probably not. Perhaps it will cause a dramatic decline in the human population over time. Who is to say this is a bad thing?
dachpyarvile
5 / 5 (3) Apr 16, 2009
This will neither spell the death of humanity nor of life on earth. Life adapts as it always has. Life that does not adapt goes extinct. That has always been the nature of--you guessed it!--nature.

Who are we to think it is necesary to change it?

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.