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Macronutrient cycles

Announcement of Opportunity



Macronutrient cycles - nitrogen (N), carbon (C) and phosphorus (P) - are pivotal in the stability of global biogeochemical cycles, in sustaining natural resources and in protecting human health and biodiversity. Human activities have enhanced global cycles of N and P by on average 100% and 400%, respectively.


The overall goal of the Macronutrient Cycles programme is to quantify the scales (magnitude and spatial/temporal variation) of N and P fluxes and nature of transformations through the catchment under a changing climate and perturbed C cycle. NERC has allocated over £8.55m to this programme. 


'The catchment' is defined as covering exchanges between the atmospheric, terrestrial and aqueous environments, with the limit of the aqueous environment being marked by the seaward estuarine margin. MC will pursue an integrated approach to research, promoting interdisciplinary science across the research community. It will address problems at an appropriate range of scales, with integrated N, P and C science and modelling as key deliverables. This announcement calls for research proposals via an Expression of Interest to be submitted by March 31st, with follow up meetings at the Royal Geographical Society on May 9thand May 10th



The programme will pursue an integrated approach to research on macronutrients cycles. It will seek to maximise the value of the funding investment through promoting interdisciplinary working of the different elements of its research community, for example by bringing together those in the freshwater, terrestrial and atmospheric sectors and linking with those working in the estuarine environment. It will address problems at an appropriate range of scales, with integrated science and modelling as key deliverables.


Delivery of the programme will be through four objectives, linking the different science areas and impacts:

  • To evaluate the nature and scale of macronutrient (N, C) exchange between the airshed and terrestrial system and consequences for fluxes (N, P, C) to freshwater and atmosphere systems (atmosphere-terrestrial-freshwater feedback system).
  • To determine the role and spatial and temporal variation of macronutrients (N, P, C) on key limiting processes and ecosystem functions (i.e. decomposition, productivity, carbon sequestration) and consequent export at the catchment scale (terrestrial-freshwater systems).
  • To advance understanding of the co-limitation of N/P for eutrophication control along the entire freshwater system to the estuarine boundary (freshwater system).
  • To determine the implications of nutrient enrichment on the fate and effects of other non-nutrient contaminants, including impacts on human health (i.e. pathogens, ozone) and biodiversity.


For further information about this announcement of opportunity and to register your interest <click here>


If you want to discuss the programme please contact:


Programme science aspects

Professor Paul Whitehead

Tel:               01865 285048         


Dr Jill Crossman

Tel:               01865 285539        


NERC procedural aspects



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