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Phosphorus Researchers Meet in Panama

March 04, 2013

Phosphorus Researchers Meet in Panama

Meeting at STRI's research station on Barro Colorado Island, phosphorus researchers reviewed advances in the field since their first meeting in Monté Verita, Switzerland, ten years ago

The workshop “Organic Phosphorus 2013, integration across ecosystems,” organized by Ben Turner, took place in Panama February 4-7, 2013.

Meeting at STRI's research station on Barro Colorado Island, phosphorus researchers reviewed advances in the field since their first meeting in Monté Verita, Switzerland, ten years ago. They also set agendas for the coming decade. U.S. students attended the workshop thanks to a grant from The National Science Foundation.

Essential for life, phosphorus commonly limits the productivity of organisms both on land and in the water, including vast areas of ancient landscapes in Africa, Australia, and South America. Yet phosphorus cycling remains poorly understood, particularly in terms of the chemistry and biological availability of phosphorus in soils and sediments.

This element can be extremely scarce, as in some tropical soils, or excessive when agricultural runoff pollutes watercourses, wetlands and oceans. The meeting addressed key issues associated with these two contrasting sides of phosphorus, from its role in regulating changes in tropical forest productivity in response to atmospheric change to the quantification of genes promoting phosphorus acquisition from the environment. Participants also discussed the implications of ‘Peak P' – the diminishing supply of mineral phosphate rock that threatens agricultural productivity worldwide.

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