NBIK14001U Climate Change and Biogeochemical Cycles

Volume 2015/2016

MSc Programme in Biology
MSc Programme in Climate Change


The focus of the course is on carbon and nitrogen cycling between plants, their local environment, and the atmosphere. Special attention is paid to the unmanaged terrestrial environment for two reasons: It covers the majority of the land area of the globe, and very direct interactions occur between plants, soil, and the atmosphere when compared to the aquatic environment. Lessons are given in radiation and energy balance, photosynthesis and respiration at leaf, plant, canopy, landscape, and biome level. Greenhouse gas emissions, including carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide are discussed. Belowground processes, i.e. microbial turnover of organic matter, rhizosphere processes, plant nutrient uptake and symbiotic relationships are also addressed, with focus on the importance of climate. Biogenic volatile organic compound emissions, the interactions with the atmosphere and feedbacks on the climate system are covered. Effects of land use and management are addressed, and the interplay between aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems on the global C balance is discussed.


The themes of the course will be:

  1. Global and local biogeochemical cycles including C and N cycling
  2. Carbon input to unmanaged terrestrial ecosystems, production.
  3. Terrestrial decomposition and greenhouse gas emissions
  4. Plant nutrient use and nutrient cycling
  5. Ecosystem-atmosphere interactions
  6. Biogeochemical fluxes in agricultural ecosystems
  7. Aquatic carbon and nutrient cycling
Learning Outcome


  • Describe the biogeochemical cycling in selected main terrestrial and aquatic ecosystem types
  • Describe biogeochemical and ecophysiological processes controlling ecosystem productivity
  • Explain the exchange of gases in terrestrial ecosystems at leaf and canopy level, and effects of climate change on the processes
  • Explain the interactions between plants, soil and microbes in relation to decomposition, organic matter turnover, plant nutrient uptake, and release of greenhouse gases



  • Evaluate the effects of climate change on terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems and key organisms
  • Identify possible feedback mechanisms between the biogeochemical cycles and the climate
  • Discuss the impact of land use and management on biogeochemical processes in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems



  • Critically examine scientific and popular articles as well as to mediate them orally and in writing
  • Reflect over and analyze the impacts of climate change on the complex interactions between the plants, soil and the atmosphere

See Absalon

The form of teaching will be class room teaching with active participation of students by means of student presentations and group work. The participants will present a journal paper addressing a topic taught in the lectures.
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Exam
  • 4
  • Lectures
  • 24
  • Preparation
  • 154
  • Project work
  • 24
  • Total
  • 206
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written examination, 4 timer under invigilation
All aids allowed

NB: If the exam is held at the ITX, the ITX will provide you a computer. Private computer, tablet or mobile phone CANNOT be brought along to the exam. Books and notes should be brought on paper or saved on a USB key.

Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
Several internal examiners
Criteria for exam assesment

See the description of learning outcome.