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Peak phosphorus curve indicating a peak in production by 2033, derived from US Geological Survey and industry data. Source: [1]. 

Peak phosphorus curve indicating a peak in production by 2033, derived from US Geological Survey and industry data. Source: [1]. 

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This paper reviews the latest information and perspectives on global phosphorus scarcity. Phosphorus is essential for food production and modern agriculture currently sources phosphorus fertilizers from finite phosphate rock. The 2008 food and phosphate fertilizer price spikes triggered increased concerns regarding the depletion timeline of phospha...

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Context 1
... numerous scholars and visionaries have alluded to the finiteness of phosphate rock or the notion of future phosphorus scarcity over the past century [41,42], the term ‘peak phosphorus’ in this context only emerged in the scientific and public domains relatively recently. To date, all secondary references to peak phosphorus explicitly or implicitly refer to either the peak phosphorus analysis undertaken by Dery and Anderson [29], indicating a peak in phosphorus production occurred in 1988, or, the analysis undertaken by the authors in Figure 4 [1,30], indicating a peak phosphorus year of 2033. It is important to first clarify the key differences between these two studies, in order to discuss the relevance of peak phosphorus, and some common misunderstandings of the concept. Whilst these two studies emerged around the same time, they were undertaken in isolation from one another. While the underlying concepts of these two analyses remain the same, they differ in two important ways. Dery and Anderson arrive at a peak year in the past (that is, 1988), because they do not use a constraining figure for total remaining reserves, citing a lack of reliability and distrust in the production of USGS data sets. Further, production data for the period up until 2006 is used, which results in a peak year of ...
Context 2
... our analysis, the published production data is fitted to a Gaussian distribution using a least squares method, in which the production data is fitted to the Gaussian and the total area under the curve is matched to the estimated total reserves. Therefore, when the published estimates of global phosphate rock reserves (that were available in 2008–2009) are used, this constrains the area under the curve and thus the solution for the peak year, and results in an estimate of the peak production of around 2033, as shown in Figure 4. Whilst there is a strong case for the validity of the peak phosphorus concept, and the implications for humanity of not preparing for a soft-landing approach in good time are serious, the analysis itself has several limitations. This section highlights some drawbacks of the peak phosphorus analysis. Firstly, determining the peak year is fraught with difficulties due to the unreliable estimates of the phosphate reserves. In fact, the peak is likely to be an extended and ‘lumpy’ plateau, rather than providing a specific year, in much the same way as the peak of oil production. Whilst the application of Hubbert’s curve can be informative for timely resource management (particularly critical for those resources like phosphorus which cannot be substituted), it is limited in the sense that it represents an ideal or single-variable situation. That is, it accounts for the time variable, however does not account for other variables such as external supply or demand-side factors. Some ‘real-world’ variables that can distort the perfect or ideal curve include: 1) Supply-side variables (can increase or decrease annual production): o Deliberate manipulation of annual production by major producing nations (for example, as in the case of OPEC fixing annual production of oil); o Geopolitical instability in a producing nation can disrupt and hence reduce annual output; o Raw material input constraints (such as the price of oil or sulfur) can reduce annual ...
Context 3
... numerous scholars and visionaries have alluded to the finiteness of phosphate rock or the notion of future phosphorus scarcity over the past century [41,42], the term 'peak phosphorus' in this context only emerged in the scientific and public domains relatively recently. To date, all secondary references to peak phosphorus explicitly or implicitly refer to either the peak phosphorus analysis undertaken by Dery and Anderson [29], indicating a peak in phosphorus production occurred in 1988, or, the analysis undertaken by the authors in Figure 4 [1,30], indicating a peak phosphorus year of 2033. It is important to first clarify the key differences between these two studies, in order to discuss the relevance of peak phosphorus, and some common misunderstandings of the concept. ...
Context 4
... our analysis, the published production data is fitted to a Gaussian distribution using a least squares method, in which the production data is fitted to the Gaussian and the total area under the curve is matched to the estimated total reserves. Therefore, when the published estimates of global phosphate rock reserves (that were available in [2008][2009]) are used, this constrains the area under the curve and thus the solution for the peak year, and results in an estimate of the peak production of around 2033, as shown in Figure 4. ...

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