Nutrient Cycling in the Serengeti
In this activity, students engage with an example from the Serengeti ecosystem to illustrate the exchange of nutrients between plants, animals, and the environment.
Many ecological concepts can be taught using the Serengeti as a case study. It is a rich and diverse habitat where much research has been done to explain how organisms interact with each other and their environment. This activity focuses on the cycling of carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus using a typical savanna grass and wildebeest as examples. After a brief introductory video, students use a card activity to engage with some processes at play in nutrient cycling in the Serengeti. They then reflect on those processes through group discussion and by completing an additional handout.
Two options are provided for the “Student Handout.” The regular handout is recommended for a general high school audience. The advanced handout is recommended for AP/IB or undergraduate students.
The “Card Images” ZIP file contains individual image files for the cards used in this activity that can be used in the classroom, particularly in online courses. A document within the ZIP file contains suggestions for their use. These card images are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CCC BY-NC-SA 4.0) license. We would ask that you attribute these to BioInteractive and not use them for commercial purposes.
Student Learning Targets
- Identify essential nutrients that organisms need — specifically carbon (C), nitrogen (N), and phosphorus (P) — and their major organic and inorganic forms.
- Describe major reservoirs of C, N, and P, and identify the processes that move the nutrients between these reservoirs.
- Articulate the concept of a limiting nutrient.
- Describe the role of microbes in nutrient cycling.
bacteria, carbon, detritivore, nitrogen, phosphorus, respiration, savanna, wildebeest
The resource is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International license. No rights are granted to use HHMI’s or BioInteractive’s names or logos independent from this Resource or in any derivative works.
Accessibility Level (WCAG compliance)
AP Biology (2019)
ENE-1.A, ENE-1.O, ENE-4.B, SYI-1.G; SP2, SP6
IB Biology (2016)
4.1, 4.3, C.2, C.6
AP Environmental Science (2020)
Topic(s): 1.4, 1.5, 1.6
Learning Objectives & Practices: ERT-1.D, ERT-1.E, ERT-1.F, SP1, SP2
IB Environmental Systems and Societies (2017)
Common Core (2010)
Vision and Change (2009)