, Volume 170, Issue 1, pp 19–34 | Cite as

Phosphorus in soil, water and sediment: an overview

  • H. Holtan
  • L. Kamp-Nielsen
  • A. O. Stuanes


The geochemistry, availability and abundance of different forms of phosphorus in soil, water and sediments are reviewed. The present knowledge of phosphorus pathways in ecosystems and their regulation is discussed.

In a drainage basin, anthropogenic phosphorus is brought into the system mainly as fertilizers and detergents. Sewer systems and outwash processes transfer the phosphorus from the terrestrial environment to the aquatic part of the ecosystem where an accumulation occurs in the sediments of the watercourse.

A great part of the phosphates in soil is sorbed to soil particles or incorporated into soil organic matter. The release and export of phosphorus from uncultivated soil is a function of the geology and soil composition, but also of the air temperature, precipitation and the hydrological condition, pH etc.

The solubility of phosphates is controlled by either sorption-desorption or precipitation-dissolution reactions depending on the environment in the soil or sediments. In soil and sediments with large amounts of iron and aluminium hydrous oxides, sorption-desorption reactions are largely responsible for determining the level of orthophosphate in the solution at equilibrium.

Algal availability of phosphorus associated with soil-derived materials present in aquatic systems deserves more research. In addition, processes responsible for transport of phosphorus from cropland to aquatic systems and chemical and microbial transformations of phosphorus in lakes and streams deserve more attention.

Key words

Phosphorus mineral soil sediment sorption transport 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • H. Holtan
    • 1
  • L. Kamp-Nielsen
    • 2
  • A. O. Stuanes
    • 3
  1. 1.Norwegian Institute for Water ResearchOslo 3Norway
  2. 2.University of CopenhagenHillerødDenmark
  3. 3.Norwegian Forest Research InstituteÅs-NLHNorway

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