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Soil biology and biogeochemical cycles

A large part of the global elemental cycles takes place in the soil. Here, energy, carbon and nutrients circulate between plants, dead organic matter, minerals, water and air. These fluxes are mediated by soil organisms, such as bacteria, fungi, animals and plant roots. These organisms and their activities are of crucial importance in agriculture and forestry, as well as for water quality and biodiversity. Ultimately, biological processes in soils have a major feed-back on the global climate. In this course we will learn about global biogeochemical cycles, and about soil organisms and their roles in these processes. We will not only provide theoretical concepts via course literature and lectures, but will provide hands-on experience in laboratory exercises, field excursions, interactive discussions and in projects on self-chosen topics. Furthermore, we will use our obtained knowledge to discuss how human practises may affect potential feedbacks between soils and biogeochemical cycles with an emphasis on land use, environmental problems and global change.

Additional course evaluations for BI1322

Academic year 2020/2021

Soil biology and biogeochemical cycles (BI1322-30243) 2021-01-18 - 2021-03-23

Academic year 2019/2020

Soil biology and biogeochemical cycles (BI1322-30124) 2020-01-20 - 2020-03-24

Academic year 2018/2019

Soil biology and biogeochemical cycles (BI1322-30106) 2019-01-21 - 2019-03-25

BI1322 Soil biology and biogeochemical cycles, 15.0 Credits

Markens biologi och biogeokemiska kretslopp

Syllabus approved



Biology Soil science

Education cycle

Master’s level


Title Credits Code
Lectures, literature and seminars 7.50 1002
Laboratory exercises 3.00 1003
Project 4.50 1004

Advanced study in the main field

Second cycle, only first-cycle courses as entry requirements(A1N)

Grading scale

5:Pass with Distinction, 4:Pass with Credit, 3:Pass, U:Fail The requirements for attaining different grades are described in the course assessment criteria which are contained in a supplement to the course syllabus. Current information on assessment criteria shall be made available at the start of the course.



Prior knowledge

Knowledge equivalent to:
• 150 ECTS first-cycle courses, including
• 60 ECTS in a scientific subject such as Biology, Agricultural Science, Soil Science, Earth Sciences, Environmental Science or Technology,
• 15 ECTS Chemistry,
• 15 ECTS Soil Science, Earth Sciences or Biology
• a level of English equivalent to upper-seconday-school English (Engelska 6).


The overall aim of this course is to acquire an advanced understanding of soil biology and biogeochemical cycles, to enable active discussion on the role of soil biota in ecosystems and production systems, and their interplay with global environmental change.

On completion of the course, the student will be able to:
• describe major groups of soil organisms, their interactions and responses to environmental conditions,
• describe biogeochemical processes and their interplay with organisms across scales,
• apply different methods for qualitative and quantitative analyses of soil organisms, biochemistry and major elemental cycles,
• analyze, evaluate and communicate soil biological and biogeochemical data,
• discuss impacts of human practices and potential feedbacks between soils and biogeochemical cycles, with emphasis on land use and global change.


The below topics will be covered by course literature, lectures, assignments, literature discussions, field excursions, laboratory practical and project work.
• global biogeochemical cycles: carbon, nitrogen, sulfur and phosphorus cycling and underlying processes,
• methods for assessment of biogeochemical cycling: isotopes, organic matter quality and elemental fluxes,
• soil organisms and their involvement in processes: metabolism, decomposition, nutrient cycling, weathering and soil structuring,
• ecology: theory, strategies, community dynamics, interactions, and trophic cascading,
• the carbon cycle: organic matter quality, turnover and stability,
• the nitrogen cycle: transformations and soil fertility,
• basic laboratory techniques in soil biology and biogeochemistry,
• human impacts: forestry, agriculture, sustainable intensification, organic farming, ecotoxicology, global change, ecosystem services and conservation,
• the scientific process: experimental design, data analyses, peer review and presentation.

Formats and requirements for examination

Participation is obligatory for all course elements except lectures. The following is required for a pass mark on the course:
• passed written final examination of theoretical course content based on lectures and literature,
• approved participation in laboratory exercises, literature discussions, and excursions,
• approved participation in project work including oral and written presentation.
  • If the student fails a test, the examiner may give the student a supplementary assignment, provided this is possible and there is reason to do so.
  • If the student has been granted special educational support because of a disability, the examiner has the right to offer the student an adapted test, or provide an alternative assessment.
  • If changes are made to this course syllabus, or if the course is closed, SLU shall decide on transitional rules for examination of students admitted under this syllabus but who have not yet passed the course.
  • For the examination of a degree project (independent project), the examiner may also allow the student to add supplemental information after the deadline. For more information on this, please refer to the regulations for education at Bachelor's and Master's level.

Other information

  • The right to take part in teaching and/or supervision only applies to the course date to which the student has been admitted and registered on.
  • If there are special reasons, the student may take part in course components that require compulsory attendance at a later date. For more information on this, please refer to the regulations for education at Bachelor's and Master's level.

Responsible department

Department of Soil and Environment
Cooperating departments:
Department of Forest Mycology and Plant Pathology

Further information

Determined by: Programnämnden för utbildning inom naturresurser och jordbruk (PN - NJ)
Biology field: Ekologi
Replaces: BI1225, MV0172
There are no Grading criteria posted for this course

Course facts

The course is offered as an independent course: Yes The course is offered as a programme course: Agriculture Programme - Soil/Plant EnvEuro - European Master in Environmental Science Soil, Water and Environment – Master´s Programme Agriculture Programme - Soil/Plant (270hec) Soil and Water Management - Master´s Programme Tuition fee: Tuition fee only for non-EU/EEA/Switzerland citizens: 38054 SEK Cycle: Master’s level
Subject: Biology Soil science
Course code: BI1322 Application code: SLU-30159 Location: Uppsala Distance course: No Language: English Responsible department: Department of Soil and Environment Pace: 100%