Elemental cycles that sustain life

Human activities dramatically influence the delicate balance of crucial elements in the Earth’s systems, leading to changes in the complex biogeochemical cycles of carbon, nitrogen and sulfur. Some gaseous forms of nitrogen and carbon are also powerful greenhouse gases, contributing to global climate change. Our environmental microbiologists study the microbial cycles of these gases at the molecular and cellular levels, the knowledge of which is crucial for efforts to combat climate change. Within ELSA, an understanding of the individual biological processes at the cellular level in plants and microbes is being integrated with extensive knowledge of global biogeochemical cycles, including biological nitrogen fixation, carbon utilisation in plants, transport and metabolism of nitrogen and metals by plants and microbes. The UEA is internationally renowned for its expertise in climate system analysis, Earth System modelling and global biogeochemical cycling and hosts ClimateUEA, The Tyndall Centre and the Climatic Research Unit.

ELSA expertise across the NRP facilitate an integrated study of natural biological processes involved in elemental cycling, as well as an understanding of their roles throughout evolution. A better understanding of the natural processes involved in elemental cycling will help ameliorate the effects of climate change, through changes to agricultural systems and ecosystem management. Expertise in climate system analysis and global biogeochemical cycles is enabling ELSA researchers to undertake integrated research into the biological systems involved in elemental cycling. This will provide a mechanistic understanding of the regulation of elemental cycles with the aim of developing more sustainable practices and mitigation strategies to counter the effects of human activities on these cycles.