Global Phosphorus Losses from Croplands under Future Precipitation Scenarios

Wenfeng Liu*, Philippe Ciais, Xingcai Liu, Hong Yang, Arjen Y. Hoekstra, Qiuhong Tang, Xuhui Wang, Xiaodong Li, Lei Cheng

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Phosphorus (P) losses from fertilized croplands to inland water bodies cause serious environmental problems. During wet years, high precipitation disproportionately contributes to P losses. We combine simulations of a gridded crop model and outputs from a number of hydrological and climate models to assess global impacts of changes in precipitation regimes on P losses during the 21st century. Under the baseline climate during 1991-2010, median P losses are 2.7 ± 0.5 kg P ha-1 year-1 over global croplands of four major crops, while during wet years, P losses are 3.6 ± 0.7 kg P ha-1 year-1. By the end of this century, P losses in wet years would reach 4.2 ± 1.0 (RCP2.6) and 4.7 ± 1.3 (RCP8.5) kg P ha-1 year-1 due to increases in high annual precipitation alone. The increases in P losses are the highest (up to 200%) in the arid regions of Middle East, Central Asia, and northern Africa. Consequently, in three quarters of the world's river basins, representing about 40% of total global runoff and home up to 7 billion people, P dilution capacity of freshwater could be exceeded due to P losses from croplands by the end of this century.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)14761-14771
Number of pages11
JournalEnvironmental science & technology
Issue number22
Early online date3 Nov 2020
Publication statusPublished - 17 Nov 2020


  • 22/2 OA procedure


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