Planetary Boundary

Phosphorus Losses

Global Status in 2007

Limit per Capita:
29 Teragrams of P
40 Teragrams of P
4.5 Kilograms of P
clearly safe    safe    unsafe    clearly unsafe

Score < 0.2x: Rest of Africa, Rest of Middle East
Score < 0.5x: India, Indonesia, Rest of America, Rest of Asia and Pacific, South Africa
Score < 1x: Austria, Cyprus, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Malta, Mexico, Romania, Rest of Europe, Slovakia, Sweden, Turkey, United Kingdom
Score < 2x: Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Russia, Slovenia, South Korea, Switzerland, United States
Score < 4x: Australia, Belgium, Denmark, Ireland, Lithuania, Netherlands, Portugal
Score < 8x: Spain
Countries with a score of 1 are in equilibrium, i.e their footprint is the same size as their limit. Countries with a score larger than 1 are overshooting, i.e. their footprint is exceeding their allocated limit.
The yearly global limit for Phosphorus is not overshot yet and evolving slowly. The situation is thus considered as safe. While 39% of the global population is leaving in an overshooting country, the majority of countries show a small overshoot.

At the level of countries, the situation is evolving very differently in different parts of the globe.
Name (evaluation year)
Phosphorus Losses (2007)
What are the objectives of this Planetary Boundary?
To avoid a major oceanic anoxic event, with impacts on marine ecosystems. Phosphorus (P) inflow to the oceans has been suggested as the key driver behind global- scale ocean anoxic events, potentially explaining past mass extinctions of marine life (Handoh & Lenton, 2003).
Is this a global issue?
Nitrogen and phosphorus are usually considered regional rather than global issues since effects occur at a local or regional scale. A global perspective can however be adopted if nitrogen and phosphorus losses to the environment affect the earth system. Due to the spatial variability of the impacts, the existence of a global threshold is however difficult to prove with certainty (Rockström et al., 2009b; de Vries et al., 2013). The Nitrogen and Phosphorus Losses Planetary Boundary is thus conceptually conceived as an aggregation of regional thresholds.
What is the selected indicator?
The consumption of P-fertilisers.
How is the indicator computed?
The phosphorus losses considered are losses from the application of fertilisers and manure.
Due to a change of data sources, the correction of some errors and the improvement of the logic, the computation differs from the description available in our methodological report.
We have here mainly used the following databases: CREEA and International Fertilizer Association (IFA).

Look at the big picture !

Current results represent first estimates of the performances of countries with respect to Planetary Boundaries. Computations are based on international datasets included in world input-output models (WIOD and exiobase 2.0) which we complemented with additional sources and basic assumptions.

The overall perspective is assumed to be correct but errors could exist for specific countries. Results will be improved in the follow-up projects.