Max Planck Gesellschaft

Research Group: Soil Biogeochemistry

Mission | Team | Projects | Publications

The Soil Biogeochemistry Group is an interdepartmental group of the BGI and the Biogeochemical Processes department.

Left to right: Marco, Ingo, Lin, Jessica, Manuel, Kathrin, Florian, Bernhard, Marion, Max, Nicholas, Thomas, Lucia, Kendal, Richard, Enrico, Gan


The Soil Biogeochemistry Group aims at understanding and quantifying the role of belowground processes for biogeochemical cycles at different spatial scales. Our main focus is explaining the persistence of organic matter in soils (SOM) and assessing its vulnerability to global environmental changes, land use intensification, and associated loss of biodiversity.

More specifically, we are interested in
(1) explaining the vertical profile of organic carbon and radiocarbon in soils, thereby identifying factors affecting the stability of organic carbon in topsoils and subsoils;
(2) exploring how plants, soil properties and microorganisms affect carbon storage via interacting carbon and nutrient cycles, including the role of biodiversity for soil functions;
(3) finding abstractions and simplified descriptions of these processes to better represent soils in ecosystem and earth system models.

The strength of our group is in combining experimental and modelling approaches. On the experimental side we are conducting field surveys and monitoring as well as experimental manipulation studies in ecotrons and laboratory incubations, using 13C, 14C, and 15N as tracer for fast and slow element fluxes. Our modelling approaches span from model development of specific soil compartments to global applications of full soil profile models, using model-data integration for improved parameterization.


Phone: +49.3641.57 - extension | E-mail: e-mail - at -

Name Position E-mail Phone Room
Marion Schrumpf + * group leader mschrumpf ...6182 B2.015
Bernhard Ahrens + PhD student bahrens ...6295 C3.013
Antonios Apostolakis * PhD student apostolakis ...6106 B1.001
Qing-Fang Bi + Postdoc qbi ...6238 C1.024
De Shorn Bramble * PhD student dbramble ...6176 B1.001
Lucia Eder + ** PhD student leder ...6267 C1.020
Steffen Ferber * Technical Assistant sferber ...6174 B2.018
Jessica Heublein * Technical Assistant jheublein ...6174 B2.018
Theresa Klötzing * Technical Assistant tkloetz ...6174 B2.018
Richard Nair + PostDoc rnair ...8986 C2.024
Marleen Pallandt + ** PhD student mpalla ...6283 C3.002b
Marco Pöhlmann * Technician mpoehl ...6175 B2.018
Ingo Schöning * Senior Scientist Ingo.Schoening ...6191 B2.019
Enrico Weber ** Technical Assistant eweber ...6274 C1.024
Hye In Yang + ** PhD Student hyang ...6240 C1.004
Thomas Wutzler + Senior Scientist twutz ...6271 C1.006

+ Department for Biogeochemical Integration, * Department for Biogeochemical Processes, ** Department for Biogeochemical Signals

Former members

Myroslava Khomik, Nadine Herold, Maarten Braakhekke (moved to Universiteit Utrecht), Allegra Mayer*, Emily Solly* (moved to WSL), Stefany Thiessen, Lin Yu, Kendalynn Morris, John Kim, Huei Ying Gan, Nicolas Dalla Valle

Our current main projects

Biodiversity Exploratories: The Exploratories for large-scale and long-term functional biodiversity research project is funded by the German Science Foundation (DFG Priority Programme 1374) and aims at understanding how land use and management intensity affect biodiversity of different taxa and ecosystem processes. Our core project soil ensures the provision of essential data on soil properties and of processes, which potentially enhance or degrade soil resources following changes in land use, management, and biodiversity. We focus on studying how land use and biodiversity affect soil organic matter input, stability and turnover, as well as links between carbon and nutrient cycles at the interface between plants, soil and microorganisms. Group members involved: Marion Schrumpf (PI, steering committee member), Ingo Schöning, Huei Ying Gan, Antonios Apostolakis, Theresa Klötzing, Steffen Ferber.

QUINCY: The Quantifying the effects of interacting nutrient cycles on terrestrial biosphere dynamics and their climate feedbacks (QUINCY) project is an ERC grant of Sönke Zaehle and aims at clarifying the role of the interacting terrestrial nitrogen and phosphorus cycles and their effects on terrestrial C allocation and residence times as well as terrestrial water fluxes. We contribute to soil model development and have set up a greenhouse ecotrone experiment where we are now studying the effects of elevated CO2 on belowground carbon allocation, soil carbon and nitrogen mineralization, microbial activity and soil carbon storage. Group members involved: Marion Schrumpf, Lin Yu, Lucia Eder, Enrico Weber, Marco Pöhlmann, Thomas Wutzler, Bernhard Ahrens.

MANIP: The Large-Scale Manipulation Experiment (MANIP) project is a collaboran with the BAIE group and is led and coordinated by Mirco Migliavacca. The overall aim of the project is to study long-term effects of nitrogen and phosphorus addition to a Spanish Dehesa system on ecosystem carbon, water and energy fluxes, and phenology. Our task is analysing effects of nutrient manipulations on soil respiration, microbial and root activity. Group members involved: Marion Schrumpf, Kendalynn Morris, Richard Nair, Enrico Weber, Marco Pöhlmann, Thomas Wutzler, Bernhard Ahrens.

SUBSOM: The The Forgotten Part of Carbon Cycling: Organic Matter Storage and Turnover in Subsoils (SUBSOM) project is funded by the German Science Foundation (DFG Forschergruppe FOR 1806) and aims at understanding the mechanisms of soil organic carbon storage and turnover in subsoils, and how they are influenced by physical, chemical and biological factors. Our task is developing a mechanistic soil carbon profile model representing and synthesing these mechanisms, including vertrical transport of particulate and dissolved organic carbon along the soil profile and consdiering both, rhizosphere and bulk soils. Group members involved: Marion Schrumpf, Bernhard Ahrens, Thomas Wutzler.

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CIRCASA The project aims to strengthen the coordination and synergies in European and global research on SOC sequestration in agricultural soils, leading to an improved understanding and scientific basis to target ambitious practices required to preserve and enhance SOC. We are involved in identifying knowledge gaps about agricultural management options to improve carbon sequestration and its co-benefits for food production and soil health. Group members involved: Marion Schrumpf, John Kim

Further projects we are involved in include:

  • Mr.PARTS:: The Minirhizotron Phenology and Root Traits project is a Marie-Curie Fellowship of Richard Nair, developing minirhizotron systems capable of sub-daily measurements with automated image interpretation to link fine-scale above- and below-ground phenology. The system is tested in greenhouse mesocosms and will be applied in the MANIP field experiment.
  • Ecosystem Nutrition: The DFG-funded priority Program 1685 aims at identifying different phosphorus nutrition strategies of forest ecosystems along a gradient of forests with poor to high phosphorus stocks in soils.
  • MOCABORS: The MOisture dynamics and CArbon sequestration in BOReal Soils (MOCABORS) project is hosted at NIBIO, Norway, and working on predictors of soil moisture across a variety of biomes and soil types in Norwegian ecosystems. Our task is improving the soil moisture response functions in soil organc carbon profile models for soils of northern latitudes.
  • ATTO: "ATTO" stands for Amazonian Tall Tower Observatory. The German-Brazilian joint project aims at producing long-term monitoring data to improve climate models. We contribute to the determination of carbon residence times of organic matter in soils and vegetation in the Amazon rainforest.
  • 14C constraint: The goal of 14C constraint is to enhance the availability and use of radiocarbon data as constraints for process-based understanding of the age distribution of carbon in and respired by soils and ecosystems.

Recent key publications

Ahrens, B., Guggenberger, G., Rethemeyer, J., John, S., Marschner, B., Heinze, S., Angst, G., Mueller, C.W., Kögel-Knabner, I., Leuschner, C., Hertel, D., Bachmann, J., Reichstein, M. , Schrumpf, M. (2020). Combination of energy limitation and sorption capacity explains 14C depth gradients. Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 107912. Download post-print here

Yu, L., Ahrens, B., Wutzler, T., Schrumpf, M., Zaehle, S.(2020). Jena Soil Model (JSM v1.0; revision 1934): a microbial soil organic carbon model integrated with nitrogen and phosphorus processes. Geoscientific Model Development, 13(2), 783-803. doi:10.5194/gmd-13-783-2020. (internal: suppl1.pdf paper.pdf )

Solly, E., Brunner, I., Helmisaari, H.-S., Herzog, C., Leppälammi-Kujansuu, J., Schöning, I., Schrumpf, M., Schweingruber, F.H., Trumbore, S., Hagedorn, F. (2018). Unravelling the age of fine roots of temperate and boreal forests.. Nature Communications 9:3006. DOI: 10.1038/s41467-018-05460-6.

Wutzler, T., Zaehle, S., Schrumpf, M., Reichstein, M. (2017): Adaptation of microbial resource allocation affects modelled long term soil organic matter and nutrient cycling. Soil Biology and Biochemistry, Elsevier BV, 115, 322-336, DOI: 10.1016/j.soilbio.2017.08.03.

Nacke, H., Goldmann, K., Schöning, I., Pfeiffer, B., Kaiser, K., Castillo-Villamizar, G. A., Schrumpf, M.., Buscot, F., Daniel, R., Wubetz, T. (2016). Fine spatial scale variation of soil microbial communities under European beech and Norway spruce. Frontiers in Microbiology, 7: 2067. doi:10.3389/fmicb.2016.02067.

Ahrens, B., Braakhekke, M. C., Guggenberger, G., Schrumpf, M., Reichstein, M. (2015): Contribution of sorption, DOC transport and microbial interactions to the 14C age of a soil organic carbon profile: Insights from a calibrated process model. Soil Biology and Biochemistry. DOI: 10.1016/j.soilbio.2015.06.008.

Schrumpf, M., Kaiser, K. (2015). Large differences in estimates of soil organic carbon turnover in density fractions by using single and repeated radiocarbon inventories.. Geoderma, 239-240, 168-178. DOI: doi:10.1016/j.geoderma.2014.09.025.

Follow link for a complete list of publications by the Soil Biogeochemistry group.

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