SOC-36306 Biogeochemical Cycles and Climate Change Mitigation


Credits 6.00

Teaching methodContact hours
Course coordinator(s)dr. M Hagens
Lecturer(s)dr. B Kruijt
dr. RWA Hutjes
dr. ir. LN Ganzeveld
dr. M Hagens
Examiner(s)dr. M Hagens

Language of instruction:


Assumed knowledge on:

MAQ-23306 System Earth: Scale Dependence, Feedbacks and Global Change, SOC-23306 Principles of Earth and Ecosystem Science, or equivalent.

Continuation courses:

MAQ-35806 Earth System Modelling.


The aim of this course is to provide the underlying natural science to global change. After an introduction in which current questions with respect to global change are discussed, the first major theme comprises the origin and evolution of the Earth and the distribution of elements. Next, major Earth compartments are discussed, i.e. atmosphere, ocean, lithosphere, biosphere and pedosphere. The physical system (circulation) and chemical and biological controls and feedbacks to the cycling of major elements are examined for each compartment. At ecosystem level, major processes affecting C, N and P cycles are presented and evaluated with biogeochemical ecosystem models. At the global scale level, the C, N and P cycles are examined across the Earth's compartments. Emphasis is on how these cycles are linked and how regulation among the cycles takes place. Moreover, the functioning of natural cycles and the anthropogenic effects on these cycles will be assessed. A good way of quantitatively examining the interaction between cycles is the use of global biogeochemical models. Themes like deforestation, regrowth, land use and cover change, stoichiometric feedbacks, etc. will be explored with such models.

Learning outcomes:

After successful completion of this course students are expected to be able to:
- analyse the functioning of the major Earth compartments;
- demonstrate knowledge of the major biogeochemical cycles;
- demonstrate insight into feedback mechanisms affecting biogeochemical cycles;
- design and evaluate simulation experiments with ecosystem and global biogeochemical models;
- use global biogeochemical models as a tool to understand feedback mechanisms and complex interactions between Earth system components; 
- assess the human impact on biogeochemical cycles and its effects on global change.


Learning material is presented through class room lectures, generally on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. On Thursdays and Fridays, students will work on modelling assignments related to the material presented earlier in the week. Ecosystem and biogeochemical models will be developed and used for the design and evaluation of simulation experiments on subjects like deforestation, land use change, anthropogenic effects on elemental cycles, feedbacks to the climate system, etc.


- Written examination with open questions at the end of the course (50%);
- Multiple online examinations with closed questions (25%);
- Assignments during computer practicals (25%).
For a final pass of the course, a minimum mark of 5.50 is required for all components.


Schlesinger W.H. and Bernhardt E.S. 2013 Biogeochemistry: An Analysis of Global Change (3rd Edition) Academic Press eBook ISBN: 9780123858757 Paperback ISBN: 9780123858740.

Compulsory for: MCLClimate StudiesMScB: Biogeochemical Cycles2MO
MCLClimate StudiesMScA: The Physical Climate System2MO
MCLClimate StudiesMScC: Ecological and Agroecological Systems2MO
Restricted Optional for: MEEEarth and EnvironmentMScC: Biology and Chemistry of Soil and Water2MO
MCLClimate StudiesMScD: Human-Environment Interactions2MO