, Volume 137, Issue 4, pp 485–501 | Cite as

Merging aquatic and terrestrial perspectives of nutrient biogeochemistry

  • Nancy B. GrimmEmail author
  • Sarah E. Gergel
  • William H. McDowell
  • Elizabeth W. Boyer
  • C. Lisa Dent
  • Peter Groffman
  • Stephen C. Hart
  • Judson Harvey
  • Carol Johnston
  • Emilio Mayorga
  • Michael E. McClain
  • Gilles Pinay
Concepts, Reviews, and Syntheses


Although biogeochemistry is an integrative discipline, terrestrial and aquatic subdisciplines have developed somewhat independently of each other. Physical and biological differences between aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems explain this history. In both aquatic and terrestrial biogeochemistry, key questions and concepts arise from a focus on nutrient limitation, ecosystem nutrient retention, and controls of nutrient transformations. Current understanding is captured in conceptual models for different ecosystem types, which share some features and diverge in other ways. Distinctiveness of subdisciplines has been appropriate in some respects and has fostered important advances in theory. On the other hand, lack of integration between aquatic and terrestrial biogeochemistry limits our ability to deal with biogeochemical phenomena across large landscapes in which connections between terrestrial and aquatic elements are important. Separation of the two approaches also has not served attempts to scale up or to estimate fluxes from large areas based on plot measurements. Understanding connectivity between the two system types and scaling up biogeochemical information will rely on coupled hydrologic and ecological models, and may be critical for addressing environmental problems associated with locally, regionally, and globally altered biogeochemical cycles.


Nutrient cycling Nutrient limitation Nutrient retention Ecosystem comparison Linkages 



This paper resulted from discussions and literature research conducted as part of the ATBGC working group supported by the NCEAS, which is funded by the NSF (grant #DEB–0072909), the University of California, and UCSB. Additional post-doctoral support for S.E.G. was also provided. We thank the many persons with whom we exchanged ideas while at the NCEAS, and members of the biogeochemistry group at Arizona State University, Russ Monson, and two anonymous reviewers, all of whose comments improved the paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nancy B. Grimm
    • 1
    Email author
  • Sarah E. Gergel
    • 2
  • William H. McDowell
    • 3
  • Elizabeth W. Boyer
    • 4
  • C. Lisa Dent
    • 5
  • Peter Groffman
    • 6
  • Stephen C. Hart
    • 7
  • Judson Harvey
    • 8
  • Carol Johnston
    • 9
  • Emilio Mayorga
    • 10
  • Michael E. McClain
    • 11
  • Gilles Pinay
    • 12
  1. 1.School of Life Sciences Arizona State UniversityTempeUSA
  2. 2.Department of Forest SciencesUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada
  3. 3.Department of Natural ResourcesUniversity of New HampshireDurhamUSA
  4. 4.School of ForestrySUNY-SyracuseSyracuseUSA
  5. 5.Center for LimnologyUniversity of WisconsinMadisonUSA
  6. 6.Institute of Ecosystem StudiesMillbrookUSA
  7. 7.School of Forestry and Merriam-Powell Center for Environmental ResearchNorthern Arizona UniversityFlagstaffUSA
  8. 8.US Geological SurveyRestonUSA
  9. 9.South Dakota Center for Biocomplexity StudiesSouth Dakota State UniversityBrookingsUSA
  10. 10.School of OceanographyUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA
  11. 11.Department of Environmental StudiesFlorida International UniversityMiamiUSA
  12. 12.Centre d’Ecologie Fonctionnelle & Evolutive MontpellierFrance

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