InTeGrate Modules and Courses >Critical Zone Science > Student Materials > Student Materials Unit 6.2
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These materials are part of a collection of classroom-tested modules and courses developed by InTeGrate. The materials engage students in understanding the earth system as it intertwines with key societal issues. The collection is freely available and ready to be adapted by undergraduate educators across a range of courses including: general education or majors courses in Earth-focused disciplines such as geoscience or environmental science, social science, engineering, and other sciences, as well as courses for interdisciplinary programs.
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These student materials complement the Critical Zone Science Instructor Materials. If you would like your students to have access to the student materials, we suggest you either point them at the Student Version which omits the framing pages with information designed for faculty (and this box). Or you can download these pages in several formats that you can include in your course website or local Learning Managment System. Learn more about using, modifying, and sharing InTeGrate teaching materials.

Unit 6.2: Biogeochemical Cycling Examples - Phosphorus and Eutrophication

Introduction

In this unit you will explore critical zone function and dynamics as they relate to nutrient cycling in agricultural systems and nutrient pollution into aquatic systems. This unit is generally subdivided into three sections: (1) nutrient pollution (2) agricultural importance and (3) critical zone function and dynamics in relation to nutrient cycling. Important present day topics of food production, clean water, nutrient pollution, and sustainable agriculture are examined using a CZ lens in which you will:

    • examine general geochemical concepts, processes, theory and specifically the phosphorus and nitrogen cycles
    • evaluate the impact the critical zone has on clean water
    • use data to explain the role the critical zone plays in agriculture and eutrophication, and how the two interact
    • explain the differences in land-use on nutrient cycling and CZ functions

Unit 6.2: Biogeochemical Cycling - Phosphorus and Eutrophication

Part 1 - Nutrient Pollution

Pre-class

In-class
Nutrient Pollution and the Dead Zone Discussion
  • You will recap your answers to Carpenter, S. R. (2008) with your peers, and discuss as a class, the impacts of both phosphorus and nitrogen. Then the topic of nutrient pollution will be explored using slides, videos, and class discussion.
Agricultural Influences and Impacts
  • You will examine the relationship between soil and our everyday lives by reading an article from Science magazine and answering questions related to the readings.
  • Your group will be given a case study looking at the use of a specific best management practice in nutrient pollution reduction that you will summarize for the rest of the class. Reminder that this is a good opportunity to think about best management practices that could be explored in your final CZO project, as your proposed CZO should consider scale and services provided by the critical zone.
Reflection
  • Reflect on what you learned, questions you have, and what you're confused about with respect to today's lecture and activities.
Homework
  • Read two articles pertaining to dead zone size, both dealing with historical dead zone size and predictions regarding future dead zone size. In addition, you will have to find primary data to backup claims in the articles.

Part 2 - Carbon, Nitrogen, and Phosphorus

In-class

Cycling of Nitrogen, Carbon & Phosphorous (N, C, P)
  • Today's class will start with some questions to answer about dead zones to make sure the last class period and homework assignments are making sense and to set the stage for today's class. Then in groups you will create a global cycling schematic for P and N based on the article provided. This will help as you explore critical zone C, N, and P cycling via a powerpoint presentation.
Ted Talk and Rebuttal Activity
  • As a class you'll watch a Ted Talk and then in groups you'll read and discuss a response to the talk. In addition to the content of both you should also consider the role and importance of science communication.
Critical zone functions and dynamics
  • Class discussion of primary literature regarding the change in agricultural soil carbon, N and P cycling, and mineral P and aquatic P limitation. Then you will examine how weathering impacts different elements differently and the role that parent material plays on soil and water characteristics.
Reflection
  • Reflect on what you learned, questions you have, and what you're confused about with respect to today's lecture and activities.
Homework
  • Each of the homework options listed below allow you to consider the biogeochemical issues relating to water quality. Your instructor will provide guidance on which homework option to complete.
      • Option A: Listen to the following podcast and write a one-page summary.
      • Option B: Produce a case study showing how specific biogeochemical processes have influenced the amount and quality of water and soil in a specific region or area.

Additional Resources

These materials are part of a collection of classroom-tested modules and courses developed by InTeGrate. The materials engage students in understanding the earth system as it intertwines with key societal issues. The collection is freely available and ready to be adapted by undergraduate educators across a range of courses including: general education or majors courses in Earth-focused disciplines such as geoscience or environmental science, social science, engineering, and other sciences, as well as courses for interdisciplinary programs.
Explore the Collection »