Thursday, November 12th from 13:00—14:00 (GMT+2)
This webinar will take place online.

Please join us using this link:
Meeting ID: 942 5223 6740 / Passcode: 823804

Urban nitrogen budgets:
Exploring the knowns and the unknowns

Ffion Atkins Postdoctoral Research Fellow University of Cape Town

Human activities have more than doubled the turnover rates of the global Nitrogen cycle, which is causing significant consequences to ecosystem function, human health, and other biogeochemical cycles such as carbon or phosphorus.  The role of urban systems in biogeochemical cycles is increasingly recognised as a needed avenue of research.  Urban nutrient budgets are important for managing excess nutrients, identifying their potential sources and mitigating their impact on ecosystems services. This research explores the knowns and the unknowns of the nitrogen budget for an urban watershed in Cape Town. Using literature, archival data and a few assumptions, we produce spatial estimates of nitrogen flux rates of the watershed by linking land use with rates of nitrogen processes and loading. These results highlight the need for further research that can quantify the large unknowns of the system, to understand critical thresholds of important ecosystems and their services to the City, and to finally apply this to the city scale.

Ffion is a postdoctoral research fellow in urban ecology at the Department of Environmental and Geographical Sciences at UCT. She currently focuses on quantifying water and nutrient budgets at the city scale. She has a PhD in Oceanography, quantifying the relationships between diverse phytoplankton communities and nitrogen dynamics in the southern Benguela Upwelling System. It was from this place of enquiry where Ffion became curious about complex adaptive systems and the apparent parallels between phytoplankton cells and larger systems such as cities. During her time working for groundwater consultants to the City of Cape Town, she became increasingly interested in quantifying resource flows at the city scale, integrating both the socio-economic and the physical/ecological components of the system. Ffion feels inspired by a utopian vision of data-driven, systems-considering, transparent and accountable decision-making. To this gargantuan end, her contribution could most likely be in her attempts at making simple graphs of complicated things.