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Towards a Sustainable Use of Phosphorus: A Transdisciplinary Scenario Analysis for the Administrative District of Lüneburg, Germany

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Closing phosphorus (P) cycles at a local level faces many challenges. In our transdisciplinary research project, we developed and assessed scenarios of sustainable P use, focusing on stakeholders’ preferences in terms of desirability and probability. For a future sustainability assessment, we collaboratively developed six sustainability indicators.

Global food supply depends on the availability of phosphorus (P). To produce P fertilizer for agricultural use, phosphate rock is needed. Phosphate rock is, however, a finite and increasingly scarce resource and is mined only in a few countries. By using recycled phosphates as fertilizers, it might be possible to meet the agricultural demand of P in a more sustainable manner. Based on a Formative Scenario Analysis of the administrative district of Lüneburg in Northern Germany, this transdisciplinary study develops several scenarios aiming at closing the local P cycle. The most desirable scenario from the stakeholders’ perspective is characterized by two aspects: First, stakeholders from industry and agriculture are committed to the use of recycled phosphates, and second, policies support P recycling efforts. This scenario is, at the same time, regarded as the least probable one because it is unlikely that statutory rules will change soon and that recycled phosphates will be accepted in agriculture or by the industry. For a future sustainability assessment of the developed scenarios, a set of six sustainability indicators was developed.
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Keywords: Formative Scenario Analysis; agriculture; phosphorus recycling; sustainability; transdisciplinary research

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2017

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  • GAIA is a peer-reviewed inter- and transdisciplinary journal for scientists and other interested parties concerned with the causes and analyses of environmental and sustainability problems and their solutions.

    Environmental problems cannot be solved by one academic discipline. The complex natures of these problems require cooperation across disciplinary boundaries. Since 1991, GAIA has offered a well-balanced and practice-oriented forum for transdisciplinary research. GAIA offers first-hand information on state of the art environmental research and on current solutions to environmental problems. Well-known editors, advisors, and authors work to ensure the high quality of the contributions found in GAIA and a unique transdisciplinary dialogue – in a comprehensible style.

    GAIA is an ISI-journal, listed in the Science Citation Index Expanded, Social Science Citation Index and in Current Contents/Social and Behavioral Sciences.

    All contributions undergo a double-blind peer review.

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