Max Planck Gesellschaft

Melanie Kern

PhD student in the Terrestrial Biosphere Modelling Group
room: C2.020 (tower)
phone: +49 3641 576273
email: mkern(at)

PhD Project

Plant growth if often limited by nutrient availability, whereby nitrogen (N) is the most required one. N limitation on plant growth becomes even more severe under rising atmospheric CO2, and thus lowers predicted land carbon (C) sink significantly, when taken into account. However, current models often fail, when simulating plant N acquisition, because they only consider plant root uptake of mineral N, but neglect other strategies that plants evolved during evolution. The build symbiotic relationships with soil fauna, such as mycorrhizal fungi and N fixing microbes, that support plant N acquisition.
During my PhD I develop a plant N acquisition model that allows plants to actively invest C into (i) root uptake of mineral N, (ii) mycorrhizal fungi that export N to their host plants, and (iii) symbiotic N fixers. Following the basic assumption that plants target maximum growth, the model calculates (potential) C costs for each strategy, and allocates available C accordingly to gain most N by investing less C.
My project is part of the QUINCY project that investigates the effects of nutrient availability on vegetation, vegetation growth, and interactions between vegetation and soil.

Research Interests

  • exchange and interactions between different Earth system spheres
  • C and N cycling within terrestrial ecosystems
  • plant response to N limitation, especially with respect to elevated CO2
  • C allocation and investment into N acqusition
  • mycorrhizal interactions with plants and soil
  • (symbiotic) biological N fixation


since 10/2016 PhD Student at the Technical University of Munich and member of the TUM School of Life Sciences Weihenstephan
since 12/2015 member of the International Max Planck Research School for Global Biogeochemical Cycles
since 10/2015 PhD Student at the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry in Jena
10/2013 - 09/2015 M.Sc. in Physics of Earth and Atmosphere at University of Bonn
10/2010 - 09/2013 B.Sc. in Meteorology at University of Bonn

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