Global-to-Local Dependencies in Phosphorus Mass Flows and Markets: Pathways to Improving System Resiliency in Response to Exogenous Shocks

Justin Baker, Nathan Schunk, Matt Scholz, Ashton Merck, Rebecca Logsdon Muenich, Paul Westerhoff, James J. Elser, Owen W. Duckworth, Luke Gatiboni, Minhazul Islam, Anna Maria Marshall, Rosangela Sozzani, Brooke K. Mayer

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Uneven global distribution of phosphate rock deposits and the supply chains to transport phosphorus (P) make P fertilizers vulnerable to exogenous shocks, including commodity market shocks; extreme weather events or natural disasters; and geopolitical instability, such as trade disputes, disruption of shipping routes, and war. Understanding bidirectional risk transmission (global-to-local and local-to-global) in P supply and consumption chains is thus essential. Ignoring P system interdependencies and associated risks could have major impacts on critical infrastructure operations and increase the vulnerability of global food systems. We highlight recent unanticipated events and cascading effects that have impacted P markets globally. We discuss the need to account for exogenous shocks in local assessments of P flows, policies, and infrastructure design choices. We also provide examples of how accounting for undervalued global risks to the P industry can hasten the transition to a sustainable P future. For example, leveraging internal P recycling loops, improving plant P use efficiency, and utilizing legacy soil P all enhance system resiliency in the face of exogenous shocks and long-term anticipated threats. Strategies applied at the local level, which are embedded within national and global policy systems, can have global-scale impacts in derisking the P supply chain.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)493-502
Number of pages10
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology Letters
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 11 2024


  • food security
  • phosphate
  • recycle
  • resilience
  • reuse
  • supply chain
  • sustainable
  • water

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Ecology
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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