Global Biogeochemical Cycles


Course Objective

To better understand the important role of biogeochemical cycles in the
Earth system and how this links to societal choices regarding our food
and energy supply.

Course Content

Biogeochemical cycles are crucial for mankind and the Earth system. For
example, they govern our food supply, regulate climate on long time
scales based on the balance between weathering rates and volcanic
eruptions, on short time scales via emissions of fossil fuels and
climate-carbon feedbacks in oceans and permafrost regions, etc. The main
subject of this course is the exchange of carbon, nitrogen, and
phosphorus between the soil, water, atmosphere, and biota on global and
local scales in different climatic zones (tropics, temperate, boreal and
arctic zone) and environments. Each week consists of two lectures where
the first one serves as an introductory lecture, the second a more
in-depth view based on recent literature of a theme in global
biogeochemical cycles, which will be followed by a practical where you
will work with actual data to better understand links between
biogeochemical cycles and the Earth system. The themes include the
global terrestrial and oceanic carbon cycle and its relation to climate,
the terrestrial nitrogen cycle and links to food production and
pollution as well as climate, forests including deforestation and forest
fires, carbon and nitrogen cycles in Arctic ecosystems and wetlands with
a special focus on permafrost dynamics, and oceanic cycles of nitrogen,
carbon, and phosphorus. All these cycles are linked through the
atmosphere which will be another theme during the course.

Teaching Methods

14 Lectures, 6 practicals, assistance with essay writing

Method of Assessment

Written exam which will count for at least 50% of the final grade,
evaluation of practicals, and potentially essay with presentations based
on student's choices


Lecture notes and scientific papers will be made available during the

Target Audience

MSc students Earth Sciences, Hydrology, Environment and Resource

Recommended background knowledge

We will use the Python scripting language during practicals and
elemental knowledge of scripting is required (a manual will be
provided), although some exercises can also be done using Excel

General Information

Course Code AM_450332
Credits 6 EC
Period P4
Course Level 400
Language of Tuition English
Faculty Faculty of Science
Course Coordinator prof. dr. G.R. van der Werf
Examiner prof. dr. G.R. van der Werf
Teaching Staff prof. dr. G.R. van der Werf
dr. J. van Huissteden
dr. G.M. Ganssen
prof. dr. ir. J.W. Erisman
prof. dr. G.J.A. Brummer

Practical Information

You need to register for this course yourself

Last-minute registration is available for this course.

Teaching Methods Computer lab, Lecture
Target audiences

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