Urban phosphorus sustainability: Systemically incorporating social, ecological, and technological factors into phosphorus flow analysis

Geneviève S. Metson, David M. Iwaniec, Lawrence A. Baker, Elena M. Bennett, Daniel L. Childers, Dana Cordell, Nancy B. Grimm, J. Morgan Grove, Daniel A. Nidzgorski, Stuart White

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


Phosphorus (P) is an essential fertilizer for agricultural production but is also a potent aquatic pollutant. Current P management fails to adequately address both the issue of food security due to P scarcity and P pollution threats to water bodies. As centers of food consumption and waste production, cities transport and store much P and thus provide important opportunities to improve P management. Substance flow analysis (SFA) is often used to understand urban P cycling and to identify inefficiencies that may be improved on. However, SFAs typically do not examine the factors that drive observed P dynamics. Understanding the social, ecological, and technological context of P stocks and flows is necessary to link urban P management to existing urban priorities and to select local management options that minimize tradeoffs and maximize synergies across priorities. Here, we review P SFA studies in 18 cities, focusing on gaps in the knowledge required to implement P management solutions. We develop a framework to systemically explore the full suite of factors that drive P dynamics in urban systems. By using this framework, scientists and managers can build a better understanding of the drivers of P cycling and improve our ability to address unsustainable P use and waste.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalEnvironmental Science and Policy
StatePublished - Mar 1 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Support was provided by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) through the Urban Sustainability Research Coordination Network (Grant No. 1140070 ) and provided by NSERC through a Discovery Grant (Grant No. RGPIN 327077 ) to EMB. DMI, DLC, and NBG also received support from the NSF through the Central Arizona-Phoenix Long-Term Ecological Research Program (Grant No. 1026865 ).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 Elsevier Ltd.


  • Phosphorus
  • Substance flow analysis
  • Urban ecology
  • Urban sustainability


Dive into the research topics of 'Urban phosphorus sustainability: Systemically incorporating social, ecological, and technological factors into phosphorus flow analysis'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this