In this Module we are going to examine the cycling of the major nutrients in soil-plant systems. It is important that you appreciate that the dynamics of the major nutrients in soils follow a cyclical pattern that is directly involved with the cycles of these elements on a global scale. Changing the rate of cycling of an element at any stage will affect other processes that determine, for example, its availability and solution concentration. This has implications for plant growth and microbial activity in the soil.
We will see that the major nutrient cycles are interconnected via the biota and some chemical processes. So any change in one cycle can affect the cycling of other nutrients in the soil. We will go on to examine the management of soil nutrients for various end uses.
In this module we will take a closer look at the different groups of soil biota in an ecosystem context. In particular we are going to concentrate upon the mycorrhizae and their role in community development and plant nutrition. This part is particularly interesting. We will cover some of the basic ecological concepts that are relevant to our subject and develop some of these in relation to reclamation.
In terms of the practical element of this module, we will examine in some detail the ecological management of restored land, nutrient deficiencies and their management, and principles underlying the revegetation of restored land.
Module objectives / Learning outcomes
to describe the cycling of the major nutrients in soils;
to understand the chemistry affecting the behaviour and fate of the major nutrients in soils;
to outline some of the uses to which major nutrients and micronutrients are put in soils plants and animals;
to understand the basic ecological concepts of succession, competition, and island biogeography;
to be able to relate such concepts to appropriate management techniques;
to be able to describe the various groups of soil biota;
to appreciate the role of the soil biota in the development of a functioning ecosystem with special reference to the role of soil biota in land reclamation;
to be able to recommend methods to correct nutrient deficiencies in reclaimed land that are appropriate to the proposed end use; and,
to understand the basic principles underlying the revegetation of reclaimed land.
To understand the importance of nutrients and soil organisms in determining the development of ecosystems and to be able to utilise this understanding in land reclamation.