Addressing the too-much-yet-too-little nutrient management paradox: A cross-disciplinary systems approach begins with ecologists
Increasing energy use and agricultural activities have led to significant improvements in human well being for most of the world's population, but at a significant cost borne by society and the ecological systems that sustain us. Many communities in the developing world lack sufficient access to nutrient fertilizers and technologies to successfully grow available crop cultivars, leading to a yield gap that exacerbates human-ecosystem vulnerability and fuels the poverty trap. Yet elsewhere, nutrients are intentionally applied – or unintentionally deposited – to ecosystems in chronic overabundance, leading to expensive social and environmental problems from nutrient pollution. Decades of natural and social scientific research have provided us with extraordinary, disciplinary information about all parts of this troubling mismatch, including more efficient ways to get nutrients to our crops and cattle; complex ecological outcomes of nutrient pollution; and economic/policy frameworks to manage common resources, among many others. Despite our knowledge advancements, serious negative outcomes of nutrient limitation and excess persist, impacting livelihoods and ecosystems worldwide.
Still to come...