Professor Louis Schipper from Waikato University is a soil biogeochemist. He explains the meaning of the term ‘biogeochemistry’ and what it has to do with the cycling of elements and nutrients in the soil.
Point of interest: Which three areas of science come together to become the study of biogeochemistry?
PROFESSOR LOUIS SCHIPPER
Biogeochemistry – you’ve got to essentially break the word down. Bio stands for biology, so that’s biological cycling. Geo is geology, so that’s about long-term processes and the conversion of elements in that case. Chem is for chemistry, and so biogeochemistry is essentially the interaction of biological and chemical processes that occur in soil.
All of those processes come together to cycle elements such as carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus and a range of others as well from one form to another. And as they convert those forms from one form to another, they become more or less available to biology. They can also convert into forms that might leach down through the soil profile like nitrate or be converted into gases such as carbon dioxide or nitrous oxide. So biogeochemistry is really an overall description of how elements and nutrients are cycled in soil.
Professor Louis Schipper, University of Waikato
Dr Selai Letica, AgResearch, Invermay