Can urban P conservation help to prevent the brown devolution?

Lawrence A. Baker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Achieving better understanding phosphorus (P) flows through urban ecosystems is needed to conserve P, as non-renewable phosphate rock deposits become depleted and the global human population increases. A baseline mass flow analysis (MFA) for P developed for the Twin Cities Watershed (TCW, which includes most of the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan region) showed that most P input was stored in the system (65%) or leaked from it (31%); only 4% was deliberately exported as useful products. In a realistic, comprehensive conservation scenario P input was reduced by 15%; deliberate export of P in the form of sewage sludge, food waste, and landscape waste was 68% of P input. In this scenario, increased deliberate export was accomplished by decreasing leakage (to 9% of input) and storage (to 23% of input). If used as agricultural fertilizer, the deliberately exported P in the conservation scenario would support about half of the food production required by the TCW.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)779-784
Number of pages6
Issue number6
StatePublished - Aug 2011


  • Brown devolution
  • Conservation
  • Phosphorus
  • Phosphorus cycle
  • Urban biogeochemistry
  • Urban ecosystems


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