Tag Archives: phosphorus

Revealing the Ocean’s Hidden Fertilizer

Marine Plants Play Major Role in Phosphorus Cycling

Phosphorus is one of the most common substances on Earth. An essential nutrient for every living organism—humans require approximately 700 milligrams per day—we are rarely concerned about consuming enough of it because it is present in most of the foods we eat. Despite its ubiquity and living organisms’ utter dependence on it, we know surprisingly little about how it moves, or cycles, through the ocean environment. (more…)

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Lake Erie increasingly susceptible to large cyanobacteria blooms

ANN ARBOR — Lake Erie has become increasingly susceptible to large blooms of toxin-producing cyanobacteria since 2002, potentially complicating efforts to rein in the problem in the wake of this year’s Toledo drinking water crisis, according to a new study led by University of Michigan researchers. (more…)

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How Do Phytoplankton Survive Scarcity of a Critical Nutrient?

New study up-ends conventional wisdom

Phytoplankton—tiny, photosynthetic organisms—are essential to life on Earth, supplying us with roughly half the oxygen we breathe.  Like all other life forms, phytoplankton require the element phosphorus to carry out critical cellular activity, but in some parts of the world’s ocean, P is in limited supply. How do phytoplankton survive when phosphorus is difficult to find? (more…)

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NASA Rover Finds Conditions Once Suited for Ancient Life on Mars

PASADENA, Calif. –– An analysis of a rock sample collected by NASA’s Curiosity rover shows ancient Mars could have supported living microbes.

Scientists identified sulfur, nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and carbon — some of the key chemical ingredients for life — in the powder Curiosity drilled out of a sedimentary rock near an ancient stream bed in Gale Crater on the Red Planet last month.

“A fundamental question for this mission is whether Mars could have supported a habitable environment,” said Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA’s Mars Exploration Program at the agency’s headquarters in Washington. “From what we know now, the answer is yes.” (more…)

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Isotope Fingerprints

Jaisi laboratory tracks chemicals in water, farmland throughout Mid-Atlantic

University of Delaware researcher Deb Jaisi is using his newly established stable isotope facility in the Environmental Biogeochemistry Laboratory (EBL) to find the fingerprints of isotopes in chemical elements — specifically phosphorus — in order to track sources of nutrients in the environmentally-sensitive Chesapeake Bay, other bodies of water and farmland throughout the Mid-Atlantic.

Jaisi, assistant professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, explained that he and his research team are currently working on many projects in the EBL, including two that are funded through seed grants, one focusing on terrestrial phosphorus sources and the other on marine phosphorus sources in the Chesapeake. One of those grants is from the UD Research Foundation (UDRF) and is titled “Role of Non-terrestrial Phosphorus Sources in Eutrophication in the Chesapeake Bay.” (more…)

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Mining Waste Byproduct Capable of Helping Clean Water

LEETOWN, W.Va. – A byproduct resulting from the treatment of acid mine drainage may have a second life in helping clean waters coming from agricultural and wastewater discharges, according to a recent study by scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey Leetown Science Center.

The report, published in the Journal Water, Air, and Soil Pollution, shows that dried acid mine drainage sludge, or residuals, that result from treating acid mine drainage discharges can be used as a low-cost adsorbent elsewhere to efficiently remove phosphorus from agricultural and municipal wastewaters. The phosphorus that has been adsorbed by the mine drainage residuals can later be stripped from the residuals and recycled into fertilizer. The mine drainage residuals can be regenerated and reused for a number of additional treatment cycles. Application of this novel, patented technology has the potential to simultaneously help to decrease acid mine drainage treatment costs, prevent degradation of aquatic ecosystems, and recycle valuable nutrients. (more…)

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NASA Maps How Nutrients Affect Plant Productivity

PASADENA, Calif. – A new analysis led by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., has estimated how much the growth of plants worldwide is limited by the amount of nutrients available in their soil. The maps produced from the research will be particularly useful in evaluating how much carbon dioxide Earth’s ecosystems may be able to soak up as greenhouse gas levels increase.

A research team led by JPL research scientist Josh Fisher used 19 years of data from NASA, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and international satellites to assess the maximum possible growth of vegetation all over the world based upon available water and light conditions. The scientists then cross-compared that potential maximum with observed vegetation productivity as measured by satellites. This is the first time such an analysis has been conducted. (more…)

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Why Are Coastal Salt Marshes Falling Apart?

Too many nutrients can cause extensive loss of marshes

Salt marshes have been disintegrating and dying over the past two decades along the U.S. Eastern Seaboard and other highly developed coastlines without anyone fully understanding why.

This week in the journal Nature, scientist Linda Deegan of the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) in Woods Hole, Mass., and colleagues report that nutrients–such as nitrogen and phosphorus from septic and sewer systems and lawn fertilizers–can cause salt marsh loss.

“Salt marshes are a critical interface between the land and sea,” Deegan says. “They provide habitat for fish, birds and shellfish, protect coastal cities from storms and take nutrients out of the water from upland areas, which protect coastal bays from over-pollution.” (more…)

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