SOQ-35306 The Carbon Dilemma


Credits 6.00

Teaching methodContact hours
Individual Paper1
Course coordinator(s)dr. L Weng
prof. dr. TW Kuyper
Lecturer(s)prof. dr. TW Kuyper
dr. L Weng
dr. ir. T Hiemstra
prof. dr. RNJ Comans
dr. ir. JW van Groenigen
dr. ir. K Metselaar
prof. dr. E Hoffland
Examiner(s)dr. L Weng
prof. dr. TW Kuyper

Language of instruction:


Assumed knowledge on:

Intermediate to advanced knowledge in soil science, e.g. SOQ-21806 Soil Quality.

Continuation courses:

MSc Thesis Soil Biology and Biological Soil Quality; MSc Thesis Soil Chemistry and Chemical Soil Quality; MSc Internship Soil Quality.


There is an inevitable trade-off between using carbon (as a source of energy, and benefiting from the nutrients released - but accepting a decline in organic matter) and hoarding carbon (to mitigate effects of increasing atmospheric CO2, but sequestering nutrients). This trade-off between different ecosystem functions and services provided by carbon suggests that carbon is subject to a zero-sum game. Could we transform a zero-sum game into a win-win situation: sequestering carbon while also raising energy crops and improving soil fertility? Several (interlinked) scientific controversies that are important for resolving or managing the carbon dilemma will be discussed and novel research questions will be identified.

Learning outcomes:

After this course you are expected to be able to:
- quantify and evaluate various and sometimes contrary roles that carbon plays in terrestrial ecosystems;
- critically evaluate scientific papers on the carbon dilemma, including deriving novel research questions;
- put scientific knowledge of the carbon dilemma in a societal context;
- write a research proposal that addresses a major issue of the carbon dilemma.


- lectures;
- literature study;
- tutorials;
- debate;
- proposal writing.


- handed-in assignments (40%);
- contribution to general discussion (10%);
- grant proposal (40%);
- contribution to proposal evaluation (10%).
For each part a minimum score of 5.0 (scale 0-10).


See reader: The Carbon Dilemma.

Restricted Optional for: MEEEarth and EnvironmentMScC: Biology and Chemistry of Soil and Water5MO
MESEnvironmental SciencesMSc5MO
MESEnvironmental SciencesMSc5MO
MPSPlant SciencesMScC: Natural Resource Management5MO
MCLClimate StudiesMScB: Biogeochemical Cycles5MO
MCLClimate StudiesMScC: Ecological and Agroecological Systems5MO