Emergent patterns in nature and society

Acute eutrophication in China

Jane Qiu from Nature News reports acute eutrophication in China caused by overuse of fertilizers. China faces the challenge of feed 21% of the world’s population with the 9% of the world’s arable land. This situation has encourage policies that facilitate the use of phosphate fertilizers all across China during the last 30 years. She quotes:

As demand for food production rises, so does the global demand for chemical fertilizer, in which phosphorus is a key ingredient, says Luc Maene, director-general of the International Fertilizer Industry Association.

Such policies has allowed China to greatly increase crop production, but with an increasing rate of 5% per year, China has accumulated 85 million tones in its soils. The author adds:

Such heavy fertilizer use has made China one of the biggest consumers of phosphate fertilizer. Last year, it used 11 million tonnes, or about 35% of global consumption, according to Zhang. With ever-increasing food demand, there is no sign that phosphate use in China will dwindle.

As consequence, China suffers today from acute eutrophication. Apparently livestock is the larger contributor, being responsible for 56% of phosphorous discharges through manure. Symptoms observed include algae blooms, killing fish and plant life and release of poisonous toxins to humans and animals. On managerial options the author notes:

According to Zhang, 3.3 million tonnes of phosphate fertilizer — nearly a third of China’s total consumption — could be saved if all the animal manure is used to fertilize cropland. “There is a lot that can be done to save both the environment and the natural resource,” he says.

Phosphate fertilizer warning for China : Nature News.

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