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Reverse the phosphorus bottleneck with veggie fish oil

Fry with algae and dump the leftovers
  [vote for,

Many years ago, Isaac Asimov wrote an essay called "Life's Bottleneck" in which he pointed out that because phosphorus is much less concentrated in soil than it is in either organisms or their excreta, putting sewage in the sea increases the rate at which it is lost to the land without providing a mechanism to reverse this process.

One solution to this is clearly to use the sewage to grow food on land, and another is to eat seafood a lot. However, for vegetarians this means eating a lot more seaweed to achieve the same result as eating a lot less animal seafood. Another problem for vegetarians is getting enough of the right fatty acids from sources other than fish, though it is possible.

So, lots of phosphorus is lost from the land to the sea, vegetarians need fatty acids in which fish are high, but they object to eating them.

However, algae, such as diatoms, are often very high in oil which is itself high in the relevant fatty acids. Solution: harvest the algae, extract the fixed oils using supercritical carbon dioxide, use it to make supplements, unhydrogenated margarine, salad oil and even cooking oil, soap and biodiesel, then discard the rest of the algae onto the land to return the phosphorus. Needless to say, sewage could be dumped on the land too, but that won't return the phosphorus which has already gone, and both could be done.

nineteenthly, Mar 05 2008

Guano-Smuggling Ninja Pirates Emergent_20invention
For [bungston] [imaginality, Mar 06 2008]

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       I had a horrible feeling about this idea until I realized there was a capital letter in the title.
MaxwellBuchanan, Mar 05 2008

       Me too! But you know it would have been more like "veggie fish oil reverses the phosphorus bottleneck"
globaltourniquet, Mar 05 2008

       No need to panic. Seabird excreta, rich in phosphorus, finds its way back to land in the form of fertilisers.
Texticle, Mar 05 2008

       Phosphorus cycles through the ecosystem in the same way that other water soluble elements do. Chemical and physical weathering strips break salts from their mineral forms and transports them to bodies of water where they can be remineralized. These deposits are transported back to the surface by geologic action and the cycle starts again. We could look for solutions to the calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium, and lithium bottlenecks but I am not aware of a crisis there either. Sure we rape the earth and waste resources, but for biological purposes we are no nearer to running out of phosphorus than say iron or aluminum.
WcW, Mar 05 2008

       The weathering of minerals is a geologic process. Changing what we eat will not significatly affect the ratio of ocianic/terrestrial phosphorus. Think about the scale man, even the powerfull influence of humans through massive mining and fertilizing operations doesn't scratch the supply. The real problem comes when our giant output is dumped into the sea, an ecosystem unprepaired for a sudden increase in nutrient. The problem is not a lack of supply but our destructive waste of what is a valuable resource.
WcW, Mar 05 2008

       It probably isn't a huge problem compared to the likes of indium depletion or persistent pollutants, but the rate at which phosphorus is lost from the land is definitely greater than the rate it returns. Considering that urine was the source from which phosphorus was originally extracted, it does seem to be relatively highly concentrated, though admittedly not hugely, and although it is only lost slowly, geological processes are also generally very slow.   

       It is also the fact that algae are a good source of oil, and when it comes down to it, literally the source of mineral oil deposits.   

       I would also say that lack of supply as such is never a problem, more having to work against entropy to get it back into a practical form. Almost all the mineral resources humans have used, in terms of actual elements, are still on the planet in some form, except maybe some of the more radioactive ones, but getting them back into a useful state would require a lot of energy in some cases.
nineteenthly, Mar 05 2008

       Ahh but the process is self limiting, as phosphorus becomes less available the land loses fertility, grows less biomass, feeds fewer animals and thus maintains a balance between compound forms. Phosphorus is not unique in this, even oxygen is part of a similar cycle of different forms. Immediate feedback in the form of ocean organisms is the most immediate mechanism. My point was that there was little we could do about it, other than to stop wasting it wholesale. We can harvest all of the low lying fruit without having a huge effect on the tree but we will suffer for our shortsightedness. Other areas are going to bite us before phosphorus. I'm bunning.
WcW, Mar 05 2008

       [I had a horrible feeling about this idea until I realized there was a capital letter in the title]   

       My reaction exactly.
normzone, Mar 05 2008

       The soultion is guano. All that penguin guano is going to waste in the infertile antarctic. If plastic bedding could be laid down over the nesting areas, the bedding could be removed and replaced if off years with harvesting of the guano.   

       Likewise, seagulls love to roost in cities. Provide a mechanism for guano collection.   

       Guano is mined to this day for fertilizer and accomplishes extactly the end you hope for. Guano, I say. Guano! Guano guano guano.
bungston, Mar 05 2008

bungston, Mar 05 2008

       Bizarelly enough, the Tongan for "guano" is "oguan", a rotational anagram. Anyone know of any other instances of words being rotational anagrams in other languages? ("And" is "dan" in Malaysian, and there's "el" and "le", but these are too short to be interesting.)
MaxwellBuchanan, Mar 06 2008

       Does SIDA and VIH (AIDS and HIV) in Spanish/English count enough for you?
ericscottf, Mar 06 2008

       I doubt it, [ericscottf]; there's a simple formula at work there, whereby
1. you take an acronym based on words with very similar cognates in other languages,
2. you find the equivalent acronym in any of the languages where adjectives tend to follow nouns (rather than vice versa), and
3. you offer it as interesting.

       The French acronym OTAN springs to mind, for example, as, perhaps unkindly, does that famous business plan involving gnomes and underpants.   

       In any case, I don't think it's what [Max] is on about.
pertinax, Mar 06 2008

       Heret si a anguagel alledc Nglishe herew, yb omes izarreb oincidencec, lla ordsw rea otationalr nagramsa fo heirt English quivalentse (ithw het xceptione fo "English"). Nglande, het ountryc herew ti si pokens, si nownk sa het lacep herew ecimald ractionsf fo het umbern evens dan tsi ultiplesm erew irstf iscoveredd.   

       Seriously though, the Dutch "het" for "the".
nineteenthly, Mar 06 2008

       [Eric] Sort of, though as [pertinax] points out, acronyms like this would be quite common due the rotational nature of grammars foreign.   

       [ineteenthlyn] I'm impressed!
MaxwellBuchanan, Mar 06 2008

       //Provide a mechanism for guano collection.//   

       See link, near the end of the annos, for one such method.
imaginality, Mar 06 2008

       I recently found it interesting that "angered" anagrams to "enraged". Synonym + anagram = synogram?
globaltourniquet, Mar 06 2008

       Obligatory WIFRT - from the title I thought this would be another idea from Treon.
Canuck, Mar 06 2008

       [Canuck] has an allergy to scrolling up, methinks.
globaltourniquet, Mar 06 2008

       Reminded me of Larry Niven's "Destiny's Road", where a similar situation occurs with potassium. Speckles, anyone?
lurch, Mar 06 2008

       Thanks, [lurch], i used to be a big fan of the Known Space series. I didn't know about that until now.
nineteenthly, Mar 06 2008


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