Scientists from North Wyke Research, in the UK, say they have determined for the first time how the rate at which dried soil is rewetted affects the amount of phosphorus lost from the soil into surface water and subsequently into the surrounding environment.
For those short of biology facts, phosphorus (P) is an essential part of the process of photosynthesis. It helps with the transformation of solar energy into chemical energy; proper plant maturation; withstanding stress. Phosphorus effects rapid growth, encourages blooming and root growth. It often comes from fertilizer, bone meal, and superphosphate.
Dr Martin Blackwell, one of the project leaders, said the study's preliminary results show the changing climate might limit the ability to mitigate phosphorus losses at certain times of the year, especially summer.
"This is really worrying because high phosphorus concentrations in surface waters can lead to harmful algal blooms, which can be toxic, cause lack of oxygen during their decay and disrupt food webs," said Blackwell. "This can also affect the quality of water for drinking and result in the closure of recreational water sport facilities."