DOI: 10.1002/jeq2.20546 ISSN: 0047-2425

The importance of consensus science to managing phosphorus in the environment: SERA‐17 and the legacy of Andrew Sharpley

Merrin L. Macrae, Peter J. A. Kleinman, Deanna Osmond, Amy Shober, Nathan Nelson
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Pollution
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Environmental Engineering


Phosphorus (P) loss from agricultural systems to surface waters, and ultimately, eutrophication, presents a wicked problem requiring transdisciplinary solutions. The mission of SERA‐17 (Southern Extension and Research Advisory Information Exchange Group‐17) has been to address this problem by developing “Innovative Solutions to Minimize Phosphorus Losses from Agriculture.” Over the course of his career, Dr. Andrew Sharpley demonstrated a rare ability to collaboratively achieve consensus around issues related to the science and management of P. The SERA‐17 organization served as the central community of experts and stakeholders where that consensus was built and applied. The consensus‐based approach, demonstrated by Sharpley and at the core of the SERA‐17 organization, was routinely applied to key areas of P science to produce applied outcomes that have been readily adopted: advance foundational science to resolve knowledge gaps and to promote innovation; promote consistency in methods to facilitate comprehensive investigations and conclusions across a diversity of systems; engage diverse stakeholders to prioritize research, and ultimately, ensure that outcomes reflect a plurality of perspectives; and deliver pragmatic solutions that reflect the best information available at a particular time. We review the history of SERA‐17 in delivering new science and management recommendations for P, with an eye to elucidating Sharpley's role and legacy in this process.

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