Amazon’s Growth Limited by Lack of Phosphorus

[This study is part of a genre that is becoming more common. We could call it the Wet Blanket, the Eyore, the Marvin the Robot, or the Every-Silver-Lining-has-a-Cloud genre.~cr]

Peer-Reviewed Publication

UNIVERSITY OF EXETER

Growth of the Amazon rainforest in our increasingly carbon-rich atmosphere could be limited by a lack of phosphorus in the soil, new research shows.

Higher concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) cause plants to grow more quickly, meaning they store more carbon.

This storage – especially in huge forests like the Amazon – helps to limit rising CO2 levels, slowing climate change.

However, plants also need nutrients to grow, and the new study shows that availability of a particular nutrient, phosphorus, could limit the Amazon’s ability to increase productivity (growth rate) as CO2 rises.

This could also make the rainforest less resilient to climate change, the researchers warn.

The study, published in the journal Nature, was carried out by an international team led by Brazil’s National Institute of Amazonian Research (INPA) and the University of Exeter.

“Our results question the potential for current high rates of carbon uptake in Amazonia to be maintained” said lead author Hellen Fernanda Viana Cunha, from INPA.

“About 60% of the Amazon basin is on old soils with low phosphorus content, but the role of phosphorus in controlling productivity was unclear because most fertilisation experiments in other parts of the world have been in more phosphorus-rich systems.

“Our experiment, the Amazon Fertilisation Experiment (AFEX), examined the effects of adding phosphorus, nitrogen and base cations (other potentially key nutrients) in an old-growth, low-phosphorus area of the rainforest.

“Only phosphorus led to increased productivity in the first two years of the experiment.

“Having such rapid and strong responses to phosphorus, both above and below ground, is an indication that the whole system was functioning under severe phosphorous limitation.”

Soil in tropical regions such as the Amazon generally formed millions of years ago, and some nutrients can be lost over time.

While nutrients such as nitrogen can be absorbed from the air by micro-organisms associated with certain plants and soils, phosphorus is not available as a gas in the atmosphere – so once it becomes depleted there is little opportunity for levels to increase.

In the new experiment, two years with extra phosphorus caused significant increases in fine root growth (29%) and canopy productivity (19%).

Stem growth did not increase. Cunha said this may be because roots and leaves require more phosphorus than stems, and stem growth is a slower process.

Long-term monitoring of the experiment is required to determine whether a stem wood productivity response becomes apparent.

The findings have major implications not only for carbon storage, but also for the forest’s resilience to climate change.

“To cope with and recover from increased threats such as droughts, we need the forest to be growing better than it used to,” said Professor Iain Hartley, of the University of Exeter’s Geography department.

“CO2 fertilisation could increase the forest’s resilience, but our findings suggest phosphorus availability will limit that effect – and therefore the risks caused by climate change become increasingly important.

“In short, parts of the rainforest growing in low-fertility soils may be more vulnerable than is currently recognised.”

Testing this suggestion is an urgent research priority. The AmazonFACE experiment – whose international team includes researchers from INPA and Exeter – is working to address this key priority.

The new study was funded by the Natural Environment Research Council.

The paper is entitled: “Direct evidence for phosphorus limitation on Amazon forest productivity.”


JOURNAL

Nature

DOI

10.1038/s41586-022-05085-2 

METHOD OF RESEARCH

Experimental study

SUBJECT OF RESEARCH

Not applicable

ARTICLE TITLE

Direct evidence for phosphorus limitation on Amazon forest productivity

ARTICLE PUBLICATION DATE

10-Aug-2022

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Tom Halla
August 11, 2022 6:10 pm

Repeating basic agronomy, that plants have a limiting input, which can be water, light, or the standard NPK fertilizer inputs. Or trace elements,which can be less obvious.
My response is Well, duuh!

Loydo
Reply to  Tom Halla
August 11, 2022 8:02 pm

However, plants also need nutrients to avoid bulldozers, chainsaws, cattle, wild fires and a range of other thing to grow.

comment image

https://research.wri.org/gfr/latest-analysis-deforestation-trends

Not enough Phosphorus is the least of the Amazon’s worries.

Old Cocky
Reply to  Loydo
August 11, 2022 9:34 pm

That’s one of the downsides of biofuels…

Loydo
Reply to  Old Cocky
August 12, 2022 4:17 pm

Biofuels? You think that’s what is destroying the world’s rainforests?

http://climate.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/laura11-e1492537614259.png

Don’t you mean: that’s one of the downsides of meat-eating.

Old Cocky
Reply to  Loydo
August 13, 2022 6:49 pm

Is this the same Brazil which mandates E25 and produces over 1/4 of the world’s fuel ethanol, or is it another country of the same name?

Redge
Reply to  Loydo
August 11, 2022 11:33 pm

You’ve got Greenpiss & the IPCC (amongst others) to thank for that.

This is from 1998

There are major expectations that biomass will supply large amounts of CO2 neutral energy for the future. Modernized bioenergy systems are suggested to be important contributors to future sustainable energy systems and to sustainable development [1-3], and several authoritative organizations (e.g., International Energy Agency, World Energy Council, Shell, Greenpeace, UNDP and IPCC) emphasize bioenergy as an attractive option for climate change mitigation in the energy sector.

Loydo
Reply to  Redge
August 12, 2022 4:18 pm

You’re blaming biofuels too? and the IPCC? for Amazonian deforestation?

Redge
Reply to  Loydo
August 12, 2022 10:11 pm

Are you saying Greenpiss & the IPCC are blameless for deforestation?

Reply to  Loydo
August 12, 2022 1:57 am

Maybe Brazil is top simply because it is by far the largest country, with by far the most forest.

Prjindigo
Reply to  climanrecon
August 12, 2022 4:42 am

Beef, it’s whats for devastation.

Dave Andrews
Reply to  Prjindigo
August 12, 2022 9:31 am

Europeans cut down virtually all their forests whilst improving their living standards to the level it is today.

But it’s wrong for Brazilians to do the same?

Joao Martins
Reply to  Loydo
August 13, 2022 3:21 am

Idiotic!

If elimination of trees is the main factor, how come that the remaining have LESS phosphorus (and other nutrients)? When there are fewer mouths eating, there is mor food availableto each one!

Joao Martins
Reply to  Tom Halla
August 13, 2022 3:18 am

Most of the trace element deficiencies are not at all “less obvious” (of course, both NPK and micro-nutrient deficiencies are obvious for the educated eye of plant pathologists, and most often disregarded by lay people who don’t know how to identify a plant as healthy).

Andy Pattullo
August 11, 2022 6:20 pm

So now the “academics” are claiming that it isn’t enough for nature to function as it always has, it must do better than before to keep up with whatever imaginary human-driven catastrophe they cook up.

Joao Martins
Reply to  Andy Pattullo
August 13, 2022 3:25 am

Yes. I guess that the next step will be teaching nature how to avoid or mitigate catastrophes.

Old Man Winter
August 11, 2022 6:25 pm

Given that jungle soil isn’t that rich, plants needing P is no surprise.
Phosphorus is used to increase early-season root & shoot growth. With
the encroachment of farming- more NPK fertilizer & animal manure runoff- the Amazon basin should turn somewhat greener with more P available.

Last edited 1 month ago by Old Man Winter
Prjindigo
Reply to  Old Man Winter
August 12, 2022 4:43 am

NPK fert isn’t natural forms and is not mobile in soil. Only the runoff water will turn green.

Joao Martins
Reply to  Prjindigo
August 13, 2022 3:45 am

You claim that it is not mobile in soil BUT the runoff will turn green? How do you have runoff without mobility?

Perhaps you would like to study a bit of soil chemistry before uttering anything about plant nutrients in soil. You would be surprised to know that P actually is rather stable, while N is much, much more soluble, as well as K (but K movement has some higher “seasonality”), so the last two have much more tendency to runoff.

Going a bit further, entering the microbiological side of the question, you would discover that “green” runoff results from N runoff (i.e., growers losing money because they are not applying N according to scientific agronomic knowledge), while “blue” (rather, “blue-green”) runoff means P runoff. Why? because N enhances the grouth of green algae populations, while P enhances the growth of cyanobacterial populations.

And having some acquaintances in the agronomical production engineering you would discover, surprise, surprise!, that this simple observation of the color of the algal growth on the soil is used from long time ago as a rough but consistent sign of nutritional imbalances, enabling the agronomists to correction the formulas or opportunities of fertilizer delivery.

tgasloli
August 11, 2022 6:33 pm

The same people who are worried about the lack of nutrients in the Amazon wilderness want to ban the use of the same nutrients in agriculture.

Pillage Idiot
Reply to  tgasloli
August 11, 2022 7:32 pm

CAGW is not a crisis.

Anthropogenic idiots damaging the human carrying capacity of the planet IS a crisis!

MARTIN BRUMBY
August 11, 2022 6:37 pm

It must be 20 years ago that I heard some genius psyentist droning on about the severe lack of phosphorus in many African jungles.

I pointed out that wood ash had good levels of phosphorus and asked why he didn’t burn down some of the jungle and use the residues as fertiliser.

He went away and started droning on to some other unfortunate.

Presumably the free holidays in the Amazon are more attractive these days.

Pa Dutchman
August 11, 2022 6:38 pm

I guess the researchers forgot that the phosphorus feeding the Amazon comes from African dust storms. Particularly from the dried lake bed from Chad as noted in the NASA study from 2020. A simple internet search can be very enlightening. It seems that nature has a good plan to keep things in balance.

Shoki Kaneda
August 11, 2022 6:40 pm

Long-term monitoring of the experiment is required to determine whether a stem wood productivity response becomes apparent.”

Translation: “We need a lot more grant money.”

Old Man Winter
Reply to  Shoki Kaneda
August 11, 2022 6:52 pm

This reeks of stupid! NPK fertilizer- N for overall plant health, P for early-
season root & shoot growth, & K for stem growth. Why are these clowns even getting grant $$$ in the first place?

Michael 63
Reply to  Old Man Winter
August 12, 2022 9:23 am

Oh, that’s because the research and best practices for “evil” high-yield farming is of course not applicable for natural growth forest – especially Gaia’s Lungs, the sacred rain forest of the Amazon!
Dah!!!
/sarc

Joao Martins
Reply to  Old Man Winter
August 13, 2022 3:52 am

Why are these clowns even getting grant $$$ in the first place?

Because in the last decades students are taught to search the scientific literature of not more than the last 5 to 10 years, so they no long learn the BASICS which where established some decades (up to one or two centuries) ago.

Authors of paers and ideas like this one eventualy are not stupid: they are ignorant.

Tony Taylor
August 11, 2022 6:40 pm

Does this mean that, on balance, the Amazon RF is growing?

LdB
Reply to  Tony Taylor
August 11, 2022 7:01 pm

Except the bits being cleared by humans accompanied by the wailing of greentards 🙂

Last edited 1 month ago by LdB
Redge
Reply to  LdB
August 11, 2022 11:34 pm

You forgot the gnashing of teeth

Prjindigo
Reply to  Redge
August 12, 2022 4:44 am

They don’t do that, greentards are universally low on calcium.

H.R.
August 11, 2022 6:54 pm

Pretty nice work, really. Too bad they had to ruin it by speculating about Climate Change™, which is undefined in their paper, near as I can tell.

The Amazon has a tropical rainforest climate. What are they expecting that climate change to, high desert?

AntonyIndia
Reply to  H.R.
August 12, 2022 9:48 pm

Mentioning “Climate change” is mandatory in any ‘scientific” publication today in 80% of fields. Its like a Covid QR code brand for the herd and of similar “quality”, so rubbish.

Geoff Sherrington
August 11, 2022 7:14 pm

Phosphorus compounds in the soil have to be in an ‘available’ form to partake of tree growth. The total P and available P are variable from place to place.
As well, there are second-order interactions where the growth response to nutrient A is affected by another nutrient B; then third order cases where both A and B response is affected by C. In some published cases, C represents pH. A and B can for example be P and Mo, or others. It is not prudent to assume that such interactions, shown at one location, can be extended to elsewhere. Geoff S
(I did soil test laboratory studies for several years).

Joao Martins
Reply to  Geoff Sherrington
August 13, 2022 4:05 am

Yes. All my professional life I worked in a country where mst often there is a huge difference between total P and available P. And where in many places the same occurs with K.

Most readers will not grasp how significant is your reference to Mo. And how in many places not applying a tiny bit of Mo results in a tremendous economy of N and a significant increase in yield. The same (regarding other determinants of productivity) applies to B in most of the world (except in a few places like in southern California).

Steve Case
August 11, 2022 7:33 pm

Any botany student learns the mnemonic “Chopkins Cafe Mighty Good” stands for
Carbon Hydrogen Oxygen Phosphorous Potassium Iodine, Nitrogen, Sulfur, Calcium and Iron – All necessary for green plants.

Prjindigo
Reply to  Steve Case
August 12, 2022 4:45 am

copper …. listen, just look up “Lesco Turf and Ornamental” and you’ll see what plants need.

Peta of Newark
August 11, 2022 7:54 pm

This is just soooo depressing.
How can they be starting from such a low knowledge base?
Have none of them any experience of farming, gardening, keeping an allotment or even just a little plant in a pot on the windowsill?

From their afex website:The treatments are: nitrogen (N) applied as 125 kg N/ha/yr, phosphorus (P) applied as 50 kg P/ha/yr, and cations applied as 50 kg KCl/ha/y and 160 kg dolomitic limestone/ha/yr

Excluding the lime, what they’re applying is what I’d refer to/call and have used extensively:
Twenty Ten Ten or as would appear on the sack it came in 20:10:10

Standard grassland fertiliser but used where fodder is produced and the Phosphorus and Potash are effectively removed when the crop is taken.
Also not least as an arable fertiliser for the same reason.

For pastures and grazing where animals are reared, less P and K are used as the animals recycle the P & K as they go about their business, so a ‘pasture field’ would get fertiliser specified as 25:5:5

The forest more closely resembles a pasture than a fodder/arable field so the rate of fertilisation they’re using is really quite strong – they’ve plastered it on ‘like snow’

What’s interesting and we don’t seem to learn is about and why they needed/used the Limestone.
Because of the 3 main fertiliser nutrients (NPK) – Phosphorus is supremely sensitive to soil pH
It gets worse, much worse because the addition of Nitrogen, via the soil bacteria, has an immense acidifying effect on soils.
iow: Nitrogen works to counteract Phosphorus out there in the Real World of Farming and is why, originally, Nitrogen fertiliser was supplied as Calcium Nitrate rather than the current Ammonium Nitrate

Quote:fine root growth (29%) and canopy productivity (19%)

As the (now ex) farmer looking at their numbers, the extra growth for that rate of fertiliser application is puny/crap/pathetic.
Their result, for all that fertiliser is hardly worth the bother.

Something else, much bigger, is going on in there.
A whole myriad of micro-nutrients are in desperate short supply, and, they themselves give the game away.

As I constantly rave about ‘Basalt’, they know what’s going on without realising it when they say: (words to the effect)

The soils of Western Amazonia, at the foot of the Andes, are very fertile.

See how naive and gullible they are?
They genuinely believe that ‘fertiliser’ comes in sacks/bags, as I described, and those sacks are conveniently labelled as ‘Fertiliser’

What could possibly go wrong?

You know what went wrong, I’ve said often enough: The Andes Went Wrong.
The Andes, and similar things/places (e.g. Volcanoes) , are The Real Fertiliser on this Planet

See also where they mention ‘other fertilisation experiments‘ = how they nicely trash Idso’s experiment.
Idso ignored, or certainly didn’t understand, the Andes also.

Fortunately for those who know where to look, The Andes come ready packaged in neat little plastic bottles

Here’s sufficient Andes to cover 2 Hectares and I’d assert they’d have got a MUCH bigger response using this than what they did use.
https://www.agrigem.co.uk/nutriflo-trace-el-5l

Or even, just some straightforward Iron, in the shape of Iron Sulphate applied at about 3 or 4 grams per square metre.
The Global Greening Sputnik, (is it still flying) would have had an absolute orgasm had it caught sight

Geoff Sherrington
Reply to  Peta of Newark
August 11, 2022 9:16 pm

Yes, Peta.
You commented on several more considerations.
I once set up a lab for a large new urea plant, which also sold P, K , lime etc.
Some farmers preferred lime because for the same money you could only fill a quarter of their truck with urea, versus a full truckload with lime. Geoff S

AndyHce
Reply to  Peta of Newark
August 11, 2022 9:41 pm

Reported after the manned Lunar flights. Some Lunar rock dust was used, experimentally, as fertilizer. The plants liked it as nothing else, i.e. growth and health were unprecedented.

Prjindigo
Reply to  Peta of Newark
August 12, 2022 4:52 am

They wouldn’t use that weak expensive garbage in South America.
https://www.clarkpest.com/docs/default-source/2021-sds/micro-mix-chelated-label-2015.pdf?sfvrsn=2 $40 for 2.15gal (nearly 10L)

More importantly if you don’t throw nitrogen at soil you don’t need to add P and K either.

Last edited 1 month ago by Prjindigo
dk_
August 11, 2022 8:01 pm

plants also need nutrients to grow,

Like nitrates, maybe?

John Savage
August 11, 2022 8:35 pm

But we banned phosphate detergents because of the environment?

dk_
Reply to  John Savage
August 12, 2022 1:11 am

Because they made plants grow where we thought we didn’t want them. Guano is the answer — to both classifying Exeter’s bat shit crazy authors as well as to fix their “problem.”

Last edited 1 month ago by dk_
Reply to  dk_
August 12, 2022 4:19 am

In fairness, those plants we don’t like most, tend to grow in places like waterways and lakes, robbing oxygen and light from indigenous lifeforms.
But I give you the Plus for the batshit thing…
Holland as example: Intensive farming, with cattle trampling each other and spilling nitrites all over the show. Huge expenditure in bags of stuff marked “fertilizer”. The whole issue could be resolved, and every libtard put to work, picking up the bullshit and spreading it on the plant crops.
But that would be work, and business practices absolutely demand you act like a frigging pig and pollute everything you can on the way, so you can have a pandemic of E-coli infections, and so shut down everyone except those who dream of “ending world hunger” (kill the hungry) and “feeding the world”(own and control the means of food production) in the spirit of “food security” (locking it away safely from the hungry poor).
So the real question is the turd from Exeter; who flushed him down to the rainforest to go teach the trees how to behave?
These sandwich people are so friggin’ pathetic… And yeah, I bet you that guy worthy gentleperson from Exrementer is a rainbow-waver. He probably also has very serious views on denying toddlers the joys of philately…or are postage stamps still acceptable?

ATheoK
August 11, 2022 8:35 pm

Soil in tropical regions such as the Amazon generally formed millions of years ago, and some nutrients can be lost over time.”

No field geologists in their research group, apparently.

What soil isn’t millions of years old?

When soil is compressed under massive weight or compressed and exposed to high heat, it begins a process of forming into rock.

Rock, sedimentary, metamorphic or igneous exposed to weathering, including rocks buried under soils, decompose. Eventually forming soils over millions of years.

The Amazon is a massive amount of land. Did these characters actually test all of Amazon or just a nutrient poor location they knew about?

Admin
August 11, 2022 8:44 pm
ATheoK
Reply to  Eric Worrall
August 11, 2022 9:08 pm

According to NASA… right…

From NASA:

The phosphorus that reaches Amazon soils from Saharan dust, an estimated 22,000 tons per year, is about the same amount as that lost from rain and flooding, Yu said”

22,000 tons of dust over 5,000 years comes to 110,000,000 tons of dust. It’s nice that NASA explains why the Amazon isn’t a much higher altitude.

What NASA has not explained is why the Bodélé Depression in Chad hasn’t exhausted itself sending all of it’s dust to South America.

This trans-continental journey of dust is important because of what is in the dust, Yu said. Specifically the dust picked up from the Bodélé Depression in Chad, an ancient lake bed where rock minerals composed of dead microorganisms are loaded with phosphorus.”

It appears that NASA has made quite a few assumptions without definitive quantifiers and qualifiers.

Reply to  Eric Worrall
August 13, 2022 9:27 am

Also, if there is phosphorus rock, phosphorus deficiency will be mitigated some by symbiotic organisms.
https://nph.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1469-8137.2004.01159.x

AndyHce
August 11, 2022 9:34 pm

Isaac Asimov wrote many articles and books on science for the general public. Quite a while ago, perhaps in the 1960’s, he wrote an essay on the question ‘how much life can the Earth support?’

His conclusion was, I’m pretty sure, that the abundance of phosphorus in the planet’s crust is the limiting factor. That is, without any consideration about tribal boundaries, human feelings, waste disposal, etc. etc., all living things require various elements. Phosphorus, because of its relative abundance, would be used up before any other necessary element if living organisms should try to increase without bounds. That limit, whatever it is, is a long way from current conditions.

Geoff Sherrington
Reply to  AndyHce
August 12, 2022 12:01 am

Andy,
If you reported Asimov accurately, he was wrong. P is not being lost from the earthly sphere. The cost of its recovery and recycle for further use will change, over many of our lifetimes, raising its price. Somewhat similar arguments have been used for eventual extraction of uranium from seawater. Geoff S

AndyHce
Reply to  Geoff Sherrington
August 12, 2022 1:03 am

You misunderstand. He said nothing about phosphorus being destroyed or lost. HOw much life can the Earth support at one time? Phosphorous is the first essential element used up.

Steven F
August 11, 2022 9:54 pm

This is not a surprise. If plants cannot get enough of just one nutrient growth will slow or stop. And when that happens CO2 absorption stops. This is a common problem people with planted aquariums face. Other than Carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, and phosphate plants also need calcium, magnesium, sulfur, chlorine, iron, boron, Manganese, zinc, copper, nickel and molybdenum. Furthermore the element must be soluble for plants to absorb it. Plants cannot use iron, manganese,zink or copper oxide

Mike
August 11, 2022 10:11 pm

Question..
HOW DID NATURE EVER MANAGE TO GET GOING, LET ALONE KEEP GOING, BEFORE HUMANS CAME ONTO THE SCENE AND STARTED POINTING OUT EVERYTHING THAT WAS WRONG WITH IT ??
I tell ya, I can’t sleep from the worry.

Reply to  Mike
August 12, 2022 4:28 am

It is said that after the Great Flood, one of the gods cursed mankind with a short life full of disease. Another one took pity on us, and made sure to leave a medicinal plant cure for every one of those diseases.
Over-the-shoulder weed* can help put a smile on while you listen to the crap, but unfortunately it makes the stupid even stupider. Which is probably why the feds are legalising it all over these days…
*The one that causes you to look over your shoulder at the slightest hint of an approaching police siren?

Davidf
August 11, 2022 10:34 pm

The New Zealand Forest Resarech Institute (FRI), now known as Scion, carried out fertilizer trials on unthrifty stands of Pinus radiata – an introduced plantation species – on poor clay soils in the early 1950s. Pretty much conclusively showed a strong lasting effect to modest applications of P. I was involved in re-establishing the trials after harvesting in the early 90s – basically replanting on the treated areas, without further treatment. The trees responded to that initial fert application, even into the second rotation. Link to the initial trial results – cant locate the write up on the work done in the 90s,
https://ref.coastalrestorationtrust.org.nz/site/assets/files/6341/cfef186a-7ad5-469a-bd33-133f01de9fec.pdf

Last edited 1 month ago by Davidf
Gary Pate
August 11, 2022 11:41 pm

Then how did the Amazon survive all the other times in history when it was much warmer that now?

Flash Chemtrail
Reply to  Gary Pate
August 12, 2022 5:42 am

The same with the coral reefs. You would think they would be as extinct as rudists by now.

Matthew Sykes
August 12, 2022 2:59 am

And the reason the soil is so poor? It was farmed to death for centuries, until either it couldn’t produce more, or smallpox wiped out the millions who lived there.

Reply to  Matthew Sykes
August 12, 2022 4:31 am

So then, you are a vax denier? Must be, you just stated that smallpox is a function of filth and poor nutrition. If that was true, then infectious diseases like smallpox and measles should decline in any community that achieves access to clean water and sufficient food. That is a very dangerous statement, and I would report you, if it was not for all those statistics from all over the world, proving just that!

Prjindigo
Reply to  cilo
August 12, 2022 4:56 am

You are absolutely ignorant of how English works as well as how history happened.

Flash Chemtrail
Reply to  Matthew Sykes
August 12, 2022 5:46 am

The Amazon rain forest lacks phosphorous because it was farmed to death for centuries? Smallpox wiped out the people that lived there?

I would like to see your evidence please.

DaveS
August 12, 2022 5:29 am

“…our increasingly carbon-rich atmosphere… “

A curious, though no doubt deliberate, way of describing a constituent that’s what, 0.04% of the atmosphere as CO2.

JCM
August 12, 2022 5:46 am

Tropical acid soils and low fertility has been known for many many decades and is commonly taught to first year undergraduates in ecology. The oxisols and ferrasols of tropical regions always exhibit low P bioavailability. Adsorption of P in sediments creates vast banks of P in river beds and deltaic deposits.

JCM
Reply to  JCM
August 12, 2022 6:05 am

The low tropical fertility, which seems counterintuitive, is presented to introduce the students to the many paradoxes present in the nature of things. This is meant to pique their interest. This tactic has been used since the 1960s.

H. D. Hoese
Reply to  JCM
August 12, 2022 8:09 am

True, also taught that unlike N,O, and C, P is not recycled in the atmosphere as a gas, a little gets up there anyway. Amazon outflow poor in nutrients, still productive because the massive flow stimulates upwelling.

StephenP
August 12, 2022 11:37 pm

IIRC many plants and ecosystems evolved over millions of years to survive, in many cases with the symbiosis of bacteria and fungi, in a range of soil environments with varying levels of nutrients.
This diversity is regarded by many as “a good thing”.
Phosphorus has a difference from other of the major nutrients in being relatively immobile in soil water. Much of the ‘leaching’ of phosphorus is by the movement through erosion of soil particles into watercourses where it fertilises the growth of algae etc. This is regarded as “a bad thing”.
Meanwhile mankind, or should that be personkind, has developed a series of food production systems utilising a limited range of plants that have a relatively high requirements for nutrients, including phosphates.
The result of this is that mankind can be regarded as a phosphorus accumulating animal, much of which ends up going down drains or is buried in graveyards (a form of PCS – phosphorus capture and storage).
In past ages much of agriculture made use of human waste, ‘night soil’, as the main way of recycling nutrients, and this is still done in some countries.
It was the invention by John Bennett Lawes in 1842 of the treatment of phosphates containing rock to produce superphosphate which provided phosphorous in a form readily available to plants. This enabled a large increase in crop yields that has allowed the human population to multiply to such a large extent.
Whereas when other wildlife dies the nutrients contained their bodies are recycled relatively efficiently, (and also in certain human cultures with ‘sky burials’), in modern times PCS seems to have become the norm.
In past eras the bones, and teeth, from battlefield corpses were recycled. People were less squeamish then!
Looking to the future, with phosphorus being a plant nutrient with limited supplies in the form of phosphate rock, are we going to have to improve our recycling of phosphorus by making cremation mandatory and the resulting phosphate containing ashes to be used as fertiliser?
Presumably it could be allowed to keep a small container with a small sample of the loved one’s ashes “in remembrance”, but as for the rest, the present insistance of ‘think of the grandchildren’ in connection with carbon could become the norm.

Reply to  StephenP
August 13, 2022 3:13 pm

How much is in the coal and oil we extract?

August 13, 2022 10:42 am

Why do we expect the earth to be so much more resource limited than it was throughout our geological history?!

https://mobile.twitter.com/aaronshem/status/1534948991602941954

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Reply to  aaron
August 13, 2022 10:44 am

I am far more afraid that we cannot sustain adequate emissions than I am of climate change. Sinks are increasing faster than emissions. Previous interglacials were warmer, CO2 & CH4 did not increase despite much more permafrost thawing & warmer oceans.

https://mobile.twitter.com/aaronshem/status/1126891475822891009

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Last edited 1 month ago by aaron
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