Assessment of nitrogen and phosphorus flows in agricultural and urban systems in a small island under limited data availability

I. Firmansyah*, M. Spiller, F.J. De Ruijter, G.J. Carsjens, G. Zeeman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

51 Citations (Scopus)


Nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) are two essential macronutrients required in agricultural production. The
major share of this production relies on chemical fertilizer that requires energy and relies on limited resources
(P). Since these nutrients are lost to the environment, there is a need to shift from this linear urban metabolism
to a circularmetabolisminwhich N and P fromdomestic waste and wastewater are reused in agriculture. A first
step to facilitate a transition to more circular urban N and P management is to understand the flows of these resources
in a coupled urban-agricultural system. For the first time this paper presents a Substance Flow Analysis
(SFA) approach for the assessment of the coupled agricultural and urban systems under limited data availability
in a small island. The developed SFA approach is used to identify intervention points that can provide N and P
stocks for agricultural production. The island of St. Eustatius, a small island in the Caribbean, was used as a
case study. The model developed in this study consists of eight sub-systems: agricultural and natural lands,
urban lands, crop production, animal production, market, household consumption, soakage pit and opendump
landfill. A total of 26 flows were identified and quantified for a period of one year (2013). The results
showed that the agricultural system is a significant source for N and P loss because of erosion/run-off and
leaching. Moreover, urban sanitation systems contribute to deterioration of the island's ecosystem through N
and P losses fromdomesticwaste andwastewater by leaching and atmosphericemission. Proposed interventions
are the treatment of blackwater and greywater for the recovery of N and P. In conclusion, this study allows for
identification of potential N and P losses and proposes mitigation measures to improve nutrient management
in a small island context
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1521-1532
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Nitrogen
  • Phosphorus
  • Small island system
  • Substance Flow Analysis (SFA)
  • Urban metabolism
  • Urban-agriculture


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