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Expert To Discuss Phosphorus’ Impact on Gulf “˜Dead Zone’

October 28, 2009

Understanding phosphorus cycling is essential for managing modern wetlands

Phosphorus is an essential element in production agriculture, however fertilizer runoff and wastewater discharge have led to massive eutrophication problems in water bodies worldwide.

Many researchers believe such contamination is at least partly responsible for offshore “dead zones,” such as the expansive area found in the Gulf of Mexico. While wetlands often act as filtering or storage systems for nutrients, protecting our landscape from contamination, researchers still do not fully understand the complex relationships between phosphorus and wetland ecosystems.

Dr. Curtis Richardson, an internationally acclaimed ecologist and wetland soil scientist at Duke University, will share his perspectives on current phosphorus research as part of the William H. Patrick Jr. Memorial Lectureship at the 2009 Annual Meetings of the American Society of Agronomy (ASA), Crop Science Society of America (CSSA) and Soil Science Society of America (SSSA) in Pittsburgh, PA.
 
Richardson’s lecture, “Phosphorus Biogeochemistry and Wetland Function: The State of Our Understanding,” will translate phosphorus biogeochemistry research into realistic management techniques to improve wetland ecosystems while sustaining ecological functions of the landscape. It will be held Tuesday Nov. 3, from 9:55 to 11:00 am in the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Room 321.
 
The presentation will focus on questions surrounding phosphorus cycling and limitations, as well as the role of phosphorus in wetland functioning and landscapes. Through a comparative analysis of new studies and research, Richardson will address these and other issues, providing a modern analysis of the importance of phosphorus to our wetland world.
 
Richardson is the director of the Duke University Wetland Center and a professor of resource ecology at the Nicholas School of the Environment. He also serves as a scientific advisor to a USAID-sponsored project to restore the marshlands in southern Iraq. His research has focused on long-term ecosystem responses to large-scale perturbations such as nutrient additions, hydrologic alterations and trace metal effects in such areas as the marshes of Iraq and the Florida Everglades.
 
A new USDA program highlights the need for increased conservation practices. Called the Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative, it provides a $320 million investment over four years to support programs in 12 states to help farmers voluntarily implement conservation practices which avoid, control, and trap nutrient runoff, improve wildlife habitat, and maintain agricultural productivity. In addition, agricultural researchers are developing sustainable conservation practices to decrease soil erosion and nutrient runoff.
 
The lectureship was established as a memorial to William H. Patrick Jr. and highlights a distinguished scientist who has made significant contributions to some aspect of wetland soils.

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