Articles | Volume 9, issue 1
Earth Syst. Sci. Data, 9, 181–192, 2017
Earth Syst. Sci. Data, 9, 181–192, 2017

  02 Mar 2017

02 Mar 2017

Global nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizer use for agriculture production in the past half century: shifted hot spots and nutrient imbalance

Chaoqun Lu1,2 and Hanqin Tian2,3 Chaoqun Lu and Hanqin Tian
  • 1Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology, Iowa State University, Ames, IA 50011, USA
  • 2International Center for Climate and Global Change Research, and School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, Auburn University, Auburn, AL 36849, USA
  • 3State Key Laboratory of Urban and Regional Ecology, Research Center for Eco-Environmental Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100085, China

Abstract. In addition to enhancing agricultural productivity, synthetic nitrogen (N) and phosphorous (P) fertilizer application in croplands dramatically alters global nutrient budget, water quality, greenhouse gas balance, and their feedback to the climate system. However, due to the lack of geospatial fertilizer input data, current Earth system and land surface modeling studies have to ignore or use oversimplified data (e.g., static, spatially uniform fertilizer use) to characterize agricultural N and P input over decadal or century-long periods. In this study, we therefore develop global time series gridded data of annual synthetic N and P fertilizer use rate in agricultural lands, matched with HYDE 3.2 historical land use maps, at a resolution of 0.5°  ×  0.5° latitude–longitude during 1961–2013. Our data indicate N and P fertilizer use rates on per unit cropland area increased by approximately 8 times and 3 times, respectively, since the year 1961 when IFA (International Fertilizer Industry Association) and FAO (Food and Agricultural Organization) surveys of country-level fertilizer input became available. Considering cropland expansion, the increase in total fertilizer consumption is even larger. Hotspots of agricultural N fertilizer application shifted from the US and western Europe in the 1960s to eastern Asia in the early 21st century. P fertilizer input shows a similar pattern with an additional current hotspot in Brazil. We found a global increase in fertilizer N ∕ P ratio by 0.8 g N g−1 P per decade (p < 0.05) during 1961–2013, which may have an important global implication for human impacts on agroecosystem functions in the long run. Our data can serve as one of critical input drivers for regional and global models to assess the impacts of nutrient enrichment on climate system, water resources, food security, etc. Datasets available at doi:10.1594/PANGAEA.863323.

Short summary
This work has addressed how agricultural nitrogen and phosphorous fertilizer use has changed over time and space. The final product covers global agricultural land, spanning from 1961 to 2013 at a spatial resolution of 0.5° × 0.5° latitude by longitude. It can serve as an important input driver for regional and global assessment and Earth system modeling of agricultural productivity, crop yield, greenhouse gas balance, global nutrient budget, and ecosystem feedback to climate.