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Guiding phosphorus stewardship for multiple ecosystems services

June 2017

Publication: Ecosystem Health and Sustainability
Author(s): G. MacDonald, H. Jarvie, P. Withers, D. Doody, B. Keeler, P. Haygarth, L. Johnson, R. McDowell, M. Myyittah, S. Powers, A. Sharpley, J. Shen, D. Smith, M. Weintraub, T. Zhang

We propose a conceptual framework‚ the ‘phosphorus ecosystem services cascade’ (PESC)‚ to integrate the key ecosystem processes and functions that moderate the relationship between P released to the environment from human actions and ecosystem services at distinct spatial and temporal scales. Phosphorus stewardship can have emergent ecosystem service co-benefits. Applying the PESC framework, we identify key research priorities to align P stewardship with the management of multiple ecosystem services, such as incorporating additional services into agri-environmental P indices, assessing how widespread recycling of organic P sources could differentially impact agricultural yields and water quality, and accounting for shifting baselines in P stewardship due to climate change. Ultimately, greater precision in targeting stewardship strategies to specific locations would help optimize for ecosystem services and more effectively internalize the downstream costs of farm nutrient management.

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