ESS-31806 Earth's Biogeochemical Cycles and Climate Change


Credits 6.00

Teaching methodContact hours
Practical intensively supervised18
Course coordinator(s)dr. ir. MR Hoosbeek
Lecturer(s)dr. ir. MR Hoosbeek
dr. B Kruijt
dr. ir. LN Ganzeveld
dr. RWA Hutjes
Examiner(s)dr. ir. MR Hoosbeek

Language of instruction:


Assumed knowledge on:

ESS-20306 System Earth: Scale Dependence, Feedbacks and Global Change, ESS-21306 Principles of Earth and Ecosystem Science, or equivalent.

Continuation courses:

ESS-32306 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 current research 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 an ecosystem model;
- assess the human impact on biogeochemical cycles and its effects on global change.


Learning material is presented through class room lectures on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays (C). On Thursdays and Fridays, students will work on modelling assignments related to the material presented earlier in the week (PI and SW). 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 elements cycles, feedbacks to the climate system, etc.


Written test with open questions (100%).


A reader containing relevant textbook chapters and key review articles is available.
Powerpoint presentations and assignments will be made available through MyPortal.

Restricted Optional for: MEEEarth and EnvironmentMSc2MO
MCLClimate StudiesMSc2MO
MCLClimate StudiesMSc2MO
MCLClimate StudiesMSc2MO
MCLClimate StudiesMSc2MO
MCLClimate StudiesMSc2MO