751-5101-00L  Biogeochemistry and Sustainable Management

SemesterAutumn Semester 2017
LecturersN. Buchmann, C. Bachofen, V. Klaus
Periodicityyearly recurring course
Language of instructionEnglish


AbstractThis course focuses on the interactions between ecology, biogeochemistry and management of agro- and forest ecosystems, thus, coupled human-environmental systems. Students learn how human impacts on ecosystems via management or global change are mainly driven by effects on biogeochemical cycles and thus ecosystem functioning, but also about feedback mechanisms of terrestrial ecosystems.
ObjectiveStudents will know and understand the complex and interacting processes of ecology, biogeochemistry and management of agro- and forest ecosystems, be able to analyze and evaluate the various impacts of different management practices under different environmental conditions, based on real-life data, and be able to coordinate and work successfully in small (interdisciplinary) teams.
ContentAgroecosystems and forest ecosystems play a major role in all landscapes, either for production purposes, ecological areas or for recreation. The human impact of any management on the environment is mainly driven by effects on biogeochemical cycles. Effects of global change impacts will also act via biogeochemistry at the soil-biosphere-atmosphere-interface. Thus, ecosystem functioning, i.e., the interactions between ecology, biogeochemistry and management of terrestrial systems, is the science topic for this course.

Students will gain profound knowledge about nutrient cycles in managed and unmanaged grassland, cropland and forest ecosystems. Responses of agro- and forest ecosystems to the environment, e.g., to climate, anthropogenic deposition, major disturbances, soil nutrients or competition of plants and microorganisms, but also feedback mechanisms of ecosystems on (micro)climate, soils or vegetation patterns will be studied. Different management practices will be investigated and assessed in terms of production and quality of yield (ecosystem goods and services), but also in regard to their effect on the environment, e.g., greenhouse gas budgets. Thus, students will learn about the complex interactions of a coupled human-environmental system.

Students will work with real-life data from the long-term measurement network Swiss FluxNet. Data from the intensively managed grassland site Chamau will be used to investigate the biosphere-atmosphere exchange of CO2, H2O, N2O and CH4. Greenhouse gas budgets will be calculated for different time periods and in relation to management over the course of a year. In a final report, students will compare their findings to the forest site Davos.
Lecture notesHandouts will be available on the webpage of the course.
LiteratureWill be discussed in class.
Prerequisites / NoticePrerequisites: Attendance of introductory courses in plant ecophysiology, ecology, and grassland or forest sciences. Knowledge of data analyses and statistics. Course will be taught in English.