Carlos A. Sierra

Research group leader

Carlos A. Sierra
Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, Postbox 10 01 64 - 07701 Jena, Germany
+ 49 3641 578928
Orcid ID:

Research interests

I study the global carbon cycle and its interactions with the climate system. In my research group we develop mathematical concepts for the study of ecosystems, implement computational tools for the analysis of biogeochemical models, and perform observational and experimental studies to improve our predictions about the responses and feedbacks between climate and the terrestrial biosphere.

Some research questions that guide our current work include:

  • For how long does carbon stay in terrestrial ecosystems and the entire terrestrial biosphere?
  • How long would it take to remove carbon of fossil-fuel origin from the atmosphere-biosphere-surface ocean system?
  • Can we adaptively manage terrestrial ecosystems to increase the time carbon remains stored before returning to the atmosphere?
  • How sensitive are terrestrial carbon stocks to simultaneous changes in multiple environmental factors?


Degree   Institution   Year
PhD in Forest Science   Oregon State University   2006-2009
M.Sc. in Forest Science   Oregon State University   2003-2006
B.Sc. in Forestry   Universidad Nacional de Colombia sede Medellín   1995-2001


I teach different courses at the International Max Planck School for Global Biogeochemical Cycles and at other institutions:

Course   Institution   Material
Global Biogeochemical Cycles   FSU Jena    
Terrestrial biosphere   IMPRS-gBGC   Lecture notes
Ecosystem modeling   IMPRS-gBGC   Lecture notes
Radiocarbon models   U California Irvine   Lecture notes

Selected publications

Sierra, C. A., Quetin, G. R., Metzler, H., & Müller, M. (2023). A decrease in the age of respired carbon from the terrestrial biosphere and increase in the asymmetry of its distribution. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences, 381(2261), 20220200.

Sierra, C. A., Metzler, H., Müller, M., & Kaiser, E. (2021). Closed-loop and congestion control of the global carbon-climate system. Climatic Change, 165(1), 15.

Sierra, C. A., Crow, S. E., Heimann, M., Metzler, H., & Schulze, E.-D. (2021). The climate benefit of carbon sequestration. Biogeosciences, 18(3), 1029–1048.

Sierra, C. A., Ceballos-Núñez, V., Metzler, H., & Müller, M. (2018). Representing and Understanding the Carbon Cycle Using the Theory of Compartmental Dynamical Systems. Journal of Advances in Modeling Earth Systems, 10(8), 1729–1734.

Metzler, H., Müller, M., & Sierra, C. A. (2018). Transit-time and age distributions for nonlinear time-dependent compartmental systems. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 115(6), 1150–1155.

Sierra, C. A., Müller, M., Metzler, H., Manzoni, S., & Trumbore, S. E. (2017). The muddle of ages, turnover, transit, and residence times in the carbon cycle. Global Change Biology, 23(5), 1763–1773.

Sierra, C. A., Trumbore, S. E., Davidson, E. A., Vicca, S., & Janssens, I. (2015). Sensitivity of decomposition rates of soil organic matter with respect to simultaneous changes in temperature and moisture. Journal of Advances in Modeling Earth Systems, 7(1), 335–356.

Sierra, C. A., & Müller, M. (2015). A general mathematical framework for representing soil organic matter dynamics. Ecological Monographs, 85, 505–524.

Sierra, C. A., Müller, M., & Trumbore, S. E. (2012). Models of soil organic matter decomposition: the SoilR package, version 1.0. Geosci. Model Dev., 5(4), 1045–1060.

Sierra, C. (2012). Temperature sensitivity of organic matter decomposition in the Arrhenius equation: some theoretical considerations. Biogeochemistry, 108(1), 1–15.