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Human waste might be an unpleasant public health burden, but scientists at the University of Illinois see sanitation as a valuable facet of global ecosystems and an overlooked source of nutrients, organic material and water.
Their research, directed by civil and environmental engineering professor Jeremy Guest, is reported in the journal Nature Sustainability.
Beings - Benefits - Ecosystems - Them—services - Systems
Human beings derive benefits from the ecosystems around them—services that often go undervalued in traditional economic systems, the researchers said. These ecosystem benefits include things like forests providing wood as a building material and natural hydrological processes that improve water quality.
"In previous research, we have shown that human waste can provide a potentially valuable source of nutrients and water to enhance agriculture," said lead author John Trimmer, a civil and environmental engineering graduate student. "In the new study, we expand this concept and set out to find connections between ecosystem services and the recovery of nutrients, water and organic matter from sanitation systems—then define and analyze the viability of pathways through which those recovered resources might further enhance ecosystem services."
Researchers - Studies - Sanitation - Resource - Recovery
The researchers found that between 2000 and 2018, there were over 56,000 published studies that discussed sanitation and resource recovery and approximately 36,000 on ecosystem services; of these, 155 discussed the linkages between the two fields.
The team identified six key resource recovery and sanitation topics covered in the published studies: wastewater treatment, wastewater reuse, natural or constructed wetlands, nutrient and carbon recovery,...
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