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Urban Phosphorus Metabolism through Food Consumption

The Case of China


Yong-Guan Zhu Key Lab of Urban Environment and Health, Institute of Urban Environment Chinese Academy of Sciences, 1799 Jimei Road, Xiamen, China, 361021,,


Urbanization has significant impacts on local, regional, and global biogeochemical cycles, including through nutrient enrichment by food consumption, and especially in rapidly urbanizing countries. This article presents a time-series estimation of phosphorus (P) metabolism through food consumption in Chinese cities and examines its relationship to income level during the period 1985–2006. Our results show that approximately 39% of the total dietary P inflow is exported through direct sewage discharge without treatment, 35% is exported via the output of solid human excreta, 7% is exported through sewage sludge landfill, and 19% is left within urban areas. The total inflow of dietary P to urban systems increases with per capita disposable income level. Furthermore, the ratio of dietary P remaining in urban systems to total dietary P inflow, the dietary P remaining in urban systems per capita, and the dietary P remaining per unit urban built-up area respond in an inverted U shape to increases in per capita disposable income; the per capita outflow of dietary P shows a U-shaped response. These relationships may indicate that the impact of urban dietary P on urban environmental systems follows the traditional environmental Kuznets curve, while the environmental impact of urban dietary P on surrounding nonurban ecosystems initially decreases but then increases with the rising income of urban residents.