Course: Nutrient cycling in terrestrial ecosystems

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Course title Nutrient cycling in terrestrial ecosystems
Course code EKO/CZ
Organizational form of instruction Lecture
Level of course Master
Year of study not specified
Semester Winter
Number of ECTS credits 4
Language of instruction Czech
Status of course Compulsory-optional
Form of instruction Face-to-face
Work placements This is not an internship
Recommended optional programme components None
  • Mládek Jan, Mgr. Ph.D.
  • Kuras Tomáš, RNDr. Ph.D.
Course content
Lectures 1-2. Levels of macronutrients in biosphere, disproportions in nutrient concentrations, main nutrient flows in the ecosystems 3-4. Biological fixation of nitrogen, litter decomposition, atmospheric deposition 5-6. Nutrient mineralization and immobilization in soil 7. Student's presentations of critical analyses of published studies 8-9. Concept of nutrient stoichiometry, nutrient limitation of vegetation (Liebig law of minimum) 10-11. Methods for determination of nutrient availability and total nutrient storage in the soil profile, isotope methods for determination of nutrient acquisition and nutrient retention by plants 12-13. Methods for determination of nutrient transfer by herbivores, calculation of nutrient balance

Learning activities and teaching methods
Monologic Lecture(Interpretation, Training), Dialogic Lecture (Discussion, Dialog, Brainstorming), Work with Text (with Book, Textbook)
  • Preparation for the Exam - 10 hours per semester
  • Semestral Work - 3 hours per semester
  • Homework for Teaching - 1 hour per semester
  • Preparation for the Course Credit - 5 hours per semester
Learning outcomes
The aim of the course is introducing of biogeochemical cycles of macroelements (carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, sulphur) at different spatial scales to students. More attention will be devoted to the flows of nutrients between soil, plants and animals within agroecosystems and forest ecosystems in temperate zone. Lectures will be focused on the following processes: biological fixation of nitrogen, litter decomposition, mineralization and immobilization of nutrients in soil but also on the influence of atmosperic nitrogen deposition. Concept of nutrient stoichiometry, i.e. equilibrium in nutrient ratios, will be presented in detail as it is fundamental for elucidation of nutrient limitation of vegetation. Further, disproportions in nutrient concentrations in soil and different trophic levels will be demonstrated. Students will gain an overview about methods for determination of total nutrient storage in the soil profile, nutrient availibility for plants, isotop techniques for determination of nutrient acquisition and retention by plants as well as about methods enabling quantification of nutrient transfer by herbivores. After completing the course students will be able to calculate the balance of nutrient flows in a ecosystem.
- knowledge of processes determining nutrient flows in ecosystems - overview of the methods enabling quantification of nutrient storage and nutrient availability in soil - calculation of nutrient balance in ecosystems - qualification for determination of nutrient limitation of vegetation
- willingness of generating and testing ecological hypothesis - general overview about pedology and plant ecology - knowledge of handling data in spreadsheet (MS Excel) - knowledge of basic statistical techniques and data handling in statistical software (e.g. Statistica) - own laptop
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Assessment methods and criteria
Oral exam, Written exam, Seminar Work

- active participiation in discussion during lectures - 2 points - critical analysis of published study and its presentation in course - 3 points - writing of seminar work - 5 points
Recommended literature
  • BassiriRad H. Nutrient acquisition by plants: An ecological perspective. Springer, Berlin. (2009).
  • Marschner P, Rengel Z (2007). Nutrient cycling in terrestrial ecosystems. Springer, Berlin.
  • Sterner RW, Elser JJ (2002). Ecological stoichiometry. Princeton University Press, Princeton..
  • Stevens C (2009). The Impact of atmospheric nitrogen deposition on grasslands: species composition and biogeochemistry. VDM Verlag, Saarbrücken..
  • Vitousek P (2004). Nutrient cycling and limitation: Hawai'i as a model system. Princeton University Press, Princeton..

Study plans that include the course
Faculty Study plan (Version) Branch of study Category Recommended year of study Recommended semester