The Phosphorus Cycle Will Have a Significant Impact on Carbon Uptake in China under a Future of Fossil-fueled Development


Phosphorus is an essential nutrient for plant growth, which is a key issue in global biochemical research. However, the impact of phosphorus cycling on carbon cycling in China has long been characterized by great uncertainty. Its limiting strength and key mechanisms are not well understood. To address this knowledge gap, Dr. PENG Jing from the Institute of Atmospheric Physics at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, conducted a study on the effects of phosphorus limitation on China's carbon balance.



Applying mineral fertilizer to the planting holes of Chinese rose seeds in early spring. As a nutrient, phosphorus can affect plant growth. The availability of phosphorus, in turn, can have a significant impact on the carbon and nitrogen cycle.(Video by ZHU Jiang)
The study, published in Advances in Atmospheric Sciences, found that when considering the influence of phosphorus cycling, global and Chinese carbon sink strengths will decrease by 7% and 15%, respectively, by the 2030s. By the 2060s, these reductions will further decrease by 8% and 16%, respectively. This indicates that the limiting strength of phosphorus on China's carbon sink is significantly higher than at the global level. Further analysis revealed that the more significant impact of phosphorus limitation on China is related to the positive feedback between net primary productivity and the rate of soil decomposition. This positive feedback of these two factors at the global scale is significantly higher than in China, resulting in a stronger impact of phosphorus limitation in China than globally. Therefore, phosphorus limitation has a significant impact on China's dual-carbon goal of carbon emissions peaking by 2030 and achieving carbon neutrality by 2060.
The interactions between the carbon (C), nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) cycles. (Image by PENG Jing)
In summary, phosphorus limitation has an important impact on China's carbon cycling. In the future, China needs to continue to strengthen research on the feedback mechanisms of carbon–nitrogen–phosphorus cycling, whilst at the same time laying a scientific foundation for accurately estimating the national-scale carbon source–sink pattern under carbon-neutral strategies.
Citation: Peng, J., L. Dan, and X. B. Tang, 2023: Phosphorus limitation on carbon sequestration in China under RCP8.5. Adv. Atmos. Sci.,
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