March 09, 2012


Human Inputs to the Phosphorus Cycle:
Human influences on the phosphate cycle come mainly from the introduction and use of commercial synthetic fertilizers. The phosphate is obtained through mining of certain deposits of calcium phosphate called apatite. Huge quantities of sulfuric acid are used in the conversion of the phosphate rock into a fertilizer product called "super phosphate".
Plants may not be able to utilize all of the phosphate fertilizer applied, as a consequence, much of it is lost form the land through the water run-off. The phosphate in the water is eventually precipitated as sediments at the bottom of the body of water. In certain lakes and ponds this may be redissolved and recyled as a problem nutrient.
Animal wastes or manure may also be applied to the land as fertilizer. If misapplied on frozen ground during the winter, much of it may lost as run-off during the spring thaw. In certain area very large feed lots of animals, may result in excessive run-off of phosphate and nitrate into streams.
Other human sources of phosphate are in the out flows from municipal sewage treatment plants. Without an expensive tertiary treatment, the phosphate in sewage is not removed during various treatment operations. Again an extra amount of phosphate enters the water.

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