Merging aquatic and terrestrial perspectives of nutrient biogeochemistry

Nancy Grimm, 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

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

127 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)485-501
Number of pages17
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2003


  • Ecosystem comparison
  • Linkages
  • Nutrient cycling
  • Nutrient limitation
  • Nutrient retention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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