The flow of phosphorus in food production and consumption — Linköping, Sweden, 1870–2000

Phosphorus is an important substance for agricultural production of food. Being a limited resource, it is of great interest for regional, as well as global food security. At the same time it presents a pollution problem for the aquatic environment in Sweden since it contributes to eutrophication of surface waters and the Baltic Sea. This study analyses the flow of phosphorus based on consumption and production of food for an average inhabitant of a Swedish city, Linköping, from 1870 until 2000. The study shows the changes in flows within the system of production and consumption of food, as well as between the different processes in this system, such as agriculture, food processing, consumption and waste handling, and output flows to the environment.

The main changes in this system over time are a) the increasing flow of phosphorus reaching the consumer and hence the waste handling system, b) the increase in the flow of products from animal production, which mainly causes the increase in (a), and most notably c) the increased input of chemical fertilizer.

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