Nutrient Cycles and Environmental Protection

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The learning objectives are: to expand knowledge about processes, properties and dynamics of nutrients and organic matter in soil to the biogeochemical cycling of nutrient elements in natural and agricultural ecosystems; to examine nutrient transformations and fluxes between soil pools and between the atmosphere, vegetation and surface and ground water; to discuss the impact of natural and anthropogenic disturbance on nutrient cycling and compare those to agricultural systems including pollution with nutrients in watersheds. The course includes a laboratory work component, based on field work for soil sampling in order to compare nutrient levels in ecossistems of natural forest to plantation forest and to grassland.


1. THE CARBON CYCLE: organic constituents of soil; properties and structures of humic substances; soil C budgets and fertility; environmental aspects.

2. THE NITROGEN CYCLE: global and ecological aspects; the internal cycle of N in soil; dynamics of organic N transformations; impact of N on health and the environment; N balance in soils.

3. THE PHOSPHORUS CYCLE: chemical properties of soil P; chemical fractionations schemes; P organic forms; soil tests for P; role of mycorrhizal in P nutrition of plants; environmental aspects of P and eutrophication.

4. THE SULFUR CYCLE: biogeochemistry of the S cycle; environmental aspects; inorganic forms in soils and plant nutrition; dynamics of organic S transformations.

5. MICRONUTRIENTS AND TOXIC METALS: distribution and forms in soils; reactions with OM; biochemical compounds and chelating agents; dynamics and cycling by plants and microorganisms; factors affecting the availability; the elements as toxic pollutants ( Cd, Cu, Pb, Hg, As).

Teaching Methodologies

Teaching of the theoretical component of the program is supported in classes by adequate ppt presentations and case study discussion and debate are promoted.


Cycles of Soil – Carbon, Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Sulfur, Micronutrients. 2nd ed. Editors: F. J. Stevenson & M. A. Cole. John Wiley and Sons, Inc.

PPT’s temáticos elaborados pelo docente./ Thematic PPT’s prepared by the teacher.



ECTS Credits



  • Teóricas - 20 hours
  • Teórico-Práticas - 26 hours