The importance of organic phosphorus sources, transfers and impacts across the agricultural continuum

Gittins, Joshua R. and Surridge, Ben and Barker, Philip and Utilities, United and Kidd, Jonathan (2021) The importance of organic phosphorus sources, transfers and impacts across the agricultural continuum. PhD thesis, Lancaster University.

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This thesis investigates the risks posed by organic phosphorus (P) from agriculture to river and stream chemical water quality and the ecology. Organic P compounds have received limited attention in past research, due to the agronomic focus on inorganic P and the analytical challenges of quantifying organic P in environmental matrices. Through laboratory and field experiments, this thesis aimed to: (i) characterise organic P within fresh and stored livestock slurry; (ii) quantify organic P export within overland flow and leachate from grasslands, including following livestock slurry application; and (iii) determine the benthic microbial responses to organic P compounds in rivers and streams. Finally, a coupled terrestrial-aquatic modelling approach was developed to quantify the impact of diffuse agricultural P mitigation measures on river water quality. The organic P pool in fresh livestock slurry was substantial and dominated by monoesters, including glycerophosphates, other labile monoesters (e.g. ATP) and inositol-6-phosphates. Storage drove significant changes in the chemical and physical fractionation of P within slurry. Organic P was observed in overland flow and leachate from grassland soil. Significant increases in organic P concentrations within leachate followed slurry application, predominantly in the form of glycerophosphates and inositol-6-phosphates. Within streams, heterotrophic responses to glycerophosphates and inositol-6-phosphate were observed, although these varied depending on background stream P concentrations. However, under certain stream conditions, inhibitory effects of organic P on the autotrophic community were observed. Modelling the efficacy of agricultural P mitigation suggested a best-case scenario in which annual river total P loads decreased by 7.5%, yet this increased to 19.4-25.1% when wastewater effluent was addressed alongside agricultural sources of P. The outcomes of this thesis present an opportunity to develop an organic P focus to the P transfer continuum, alongside highlighting a range of future research priorities related to organic P in the environment.

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Thesis (PhD)
?? phosphorus, organic phosphorus, water quality, agriculture, cumbria ??
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17 Aug 2021 16:25
Last Modified:
22 Mar 2024 00:05