Nutrient Flows in the Landscape

Authors: Erica Smithwick*, The Pennsylvania State University
Topics: Landscape, Environment, Sustainability Science
Keywords: nutrients, teleconnections, landscape
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Marshall North, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Lateral flows generate ecological patchiness at multiple scales, from microbial to global, resulting in patterns of nutrient distribution that do not result from vertical or internal dynamics alone. Resulting nutrient landscapes in today’s world are simultaneously a product of impeded flowpaths through increasingly fragmented landscapes and teleconnections that span global and geological scales. Moreover, the main abiotic and biotic agents of nutrient availability and flow are changing rapidly, reshaping food-energy-water systems. Managing nutrients on working landscapes requires an understanding of spatial and temporal nonlinearities in process rates across heterogeneous and teleconnected systems that could lead to emergent behaviors in nutrient availability. Frontiers in these new nutrient geographies include (1) the exploration of how social networks of nutrient exchange at local, regional, and global scales collectively influence nutrient availability across landscapes, (2) the estimation of thresholds in landscape structure that determine connectivity of abiotic nutrient flowpaths and the biological agents that govern them, (3) an understanding of when ‘black box’ approaches to nutrient cycling fail, due to emergent behaviors caused by cross-scalar interactions (e.g., microbial competition within the rhizosphere for limited resources, or whole-plant nutrient reallocation in response to external stress). When applied to nutrient flows, approaches in spatial resilience, connectivity and network science, and socio-ecological systems are likely to contribute to deeper understanding of complex nutrient interactions across landscapes of the Anthropocene.

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