SBL-35306 The Carbon Dilemma

Code last year: (SOQ-35306)


Credits 6.00

Teaching methodContact hours
Individual Paper1
Course coordinator(s)prof. dr. TW Kuyper
M Jaartsveld
Lecturer(s)prof. dr. E Hoffland
dr. ir. T Hiemstra
prof. dr. TW Kuyper
prof. dr. RNJ Comans
dr. M Hagens
dr. R Hijbeek
G Moinet
Examiner(s)prof. dr. TW Kuyper

Language of instruction:


Assumed knowledge on:

Intermediate to advanced knowledge in soil science, e.g. SBL-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 successful completion of this course students 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 feedback (10%).
For each part a minimum score of 5.0 (scale 0-10).


Links to the pertinent literature (recent primary scientific papers) will be provided through Blackboard

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