Max Planck Gesellschaft

Research group: Terrestrial Biosphere Modelling

Mission | Team | Projects | Publications | Tools | Collaborations


The Terrestrial Biosphere Modelling Group (TBM) aims at improving the understanding of the interactions of the biogeochemical cycles of carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus at temporal and spatial scales for relevant for the Earth System. To accomplish this goal, the group develops and employs numerical models of terrestrial biosphere processes, and uses observational constraints obtained from biosphere monitoring or ecosystem manipulation to challenge model formulations. An improved representation of key (eco-physiological) processes, in particular those affecting nutrient availability and its role in ecosystem dynamics, is a key component of the group's research. The group investigates the consequences of the coupling of the terrestrial biogeochemical cycles for biogeochemical and biogeophysical interactions with the climate system.

clock-wise from top: Sönke Zaehle, Silvia Caldararu, Jan Engel, Lucia Eder, Enrico Weber, Melanie Kern, Lin Yu (missing Hye Inn Yang)


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

Name Position E-mail Phone Room
Sönke Zaehle Group leader szaehle ...6300 A3.003
Silvia Caldararu PostDoc scaldra ...6279 C2.024
Lucia Eder PhD student # leder ...6267 C3.020
Jan Engel Scientific Programmer jengel ...6279 A3.008
Katrin Fleischer PostDoc kfleischer ...*** A3.015
Cheng Gong? PostDoc cgong ...6301 A3.004
Fabrice Lacroix PostDoc jointly with IPAS Group flacro ..630x A2.008
Sophia, Gabriela PhD student gsophia xxxx A2.002
Tran, Dieu Anh PhD student atran ..6358 A2.002
Enrico Weber Scientist # eweber ...6274 A2.007
Hye In Yang PhD student # hyang ...6240 A2.007
Lin Yu Associated Scientist (Lund University) lyu *** ***

Group members marked with * are equally member of the CCDAS cross-departmental research group. Group members marked with # are shared with the Soil Biogeochemisty group. Group members marked with ** are shared with other research groups of the department.

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Current main projects

The ESM 2025 project is an ambitious European project on Earth System Modelling that aims to develop the next generation of Earth System Models (ESMs). By developing a novel generation of ESMs, we take a step forward in providing relevant climate simulations for the design of comprehensive climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies, in line with the Paris Agreement. This next generation of ESMs will include an improved representation of the full Earth-system response to anthropogenic emissions, with a particular focus on human land-use change.

Group members involved: Cheng Gong?, Jan Engel, Julia Nabel,Sönke Zaehle

4C project 4C aims to advance our understanding of the carbon cycle over the historical period, as an essential prerequisite of reliable near-term predictions and long-term projections. This will be achieved by developing and making use of novel observations and data products to constrain the land carbon fluxes and their drivers, combined with forced land carbon cycle model simulations over the historical period (1900-2020) to improve our understanding of underlying processes, particularly focusing on the response of carbon fluxes to increase in atmospheric CO2, seasonal to decadal climate variability, and climatic extremes.

Group members involved: Sönke Zaehle, NN

ClimGrassHydro The ClimGrass experiment aims to analyze effects of warming, elevated CO_2 and extreme climatic events on the productivity and biogeochemistry of a managed C3 grassland typical for many European mountain regions. Our role in this project is a run a model-data synthesis activity involving several international partners.

Group members involved: Sönke Zaehle, NN

QUINCY Nutrient availability plays a pivotal role in the response of terrestrial ecosystems to increasing atmospheric CO2 and climate change. The objective of the ERC consolidator grant QUINCY is to clarify 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. To this end, we have developed a novel model (QUINCY) for the coupled biogeochemical cycles at scales relevant for the ICON land surface model.

Group members involved: Silvia Caldararu, Jan Engel,

Coordinated Research in Earth Systems and Climate: Experiments, Knowledge, Dissemination and Outreach facilitates a coordinated European contribution to the 6th Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP6) where the climate research community compares a range of International Earth System Models using common sets of experimental protocols, to improve our knowledge of the Earth’s climate processes and provide the best possible future projections to governments and decision-makers. Our contribution is the coordination of the land model evaluation, with a specific focus on nitrogen related processes.

Group members involved: Johannes Meyerholt, Sönke Zaehle

Forest ecosystem nutrition The objective of the DFG-funded priority Program 1685 is to investigate the relevance of the ecological paradigm of the ‘whole being more than the sum of its parts’ for P - nutrition of forest ecosystems. Therefore new concepts of ecosystem nutrition and new methods will be developed. We contribute with the development of a new soil model representation for the QUINCY model.

Group members involved: Lin Yu, Sönke Zaehle

Ongoing activities

  • INCyTE: NSF-funded Research Coodination Network.
  • TRENDY: Trends in net land carbon exchange over the contemporary period.

Recently completed projects

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Key publications

Caldararu, S., Thum, T., Yu, L., Zaehle, S. (2020). Whole-plant optimality predicts changes in leaf nitrogen under variable CO2 and nutrient availability. New Phytologist, 225(6), 2331-2346. doi:10.1111/nph.16327.
Knauer, J., Zaehle, S., Reichstein, M., Medlyn, B. E., Forkel, M., Hagemann, S., Werner, C. (2017). The response of ecosystem water-use efficiency to rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations: sensitivity and large-scale biogeochemical implications. New Phytologist, 213(4), 1654-1666. doi:10.1111/nph.14288.
Medlyn, B. E., Zaehle, S., Kauwe, M. G. D., Walker, A. P., Dietze, M. C., Hanson, P. J., Hickler, T., Jain, A. K., Luo, Y., Parton, W., Prentice, I. C., Thornton, P. E., Wang, S., Wang, Y.-P., Weng, E., Iversen, C. M., McCarthy, H. R., Warren, J. M., Oren, R., Norby, R. J. (2015). Using ecosystem experiments to improve vegetation models. Nature Climate Change, 5(6), 528-534. doi:10.1038/nclimate2621.
Meyerholt, J., Sickel, K., Zaehle, S. (2020). Ensemble projections elucidate effects of uncertainty in terrestrial nitrogen limitation on future carbon uptake. Global Change Biology, 26(7), 3978-3996. doi:10.1111/gcb.15114.
Thum, T., Caldararu, S., Engel, J., Kern, M., Pallandt, M., Schnur, R., Yu, L., Zaehle, S. (2019). A new model of the coupled carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus cycles in the terrestrial biosphere (QUINCY v1.0; revision 1996). Geoscientific Model Development, 12(11), 4781-4802. doi:10.5194/gmd-12-4781-2019.
Zaehle, S., Ciais, P., Friend, A. D., Prieur, V. (2011). Carbon benefits of anthropogenic reactive nitrogen offset by nitrous oxide emissions. Nature Geoscience, 4(9), 601-605. doi:10.1038/ngeo1207.
Zaehle, S., Friedlingstein, P., Friend, A. D. (2010). Terrestrial nitrogen feedbacks may accelerate future climate change. Geophysical Research Letters, 37, L01401. doi:10.1029/2009gl041345.
Zaehle, S., Medlyn, B. E., De Kauwe, M. G., Walker, A. P., Dietze, M. C., Hickler, T., Luo, Y., Wang, Y.-P., El-Masri, B., Thornton, P., Jain, A., Wang, S., Warlind, D., Weng, E., Parton, W., Iversen, C. M., Gallet-Budynek, A., McCarthy, H., Finzi, A., Hanson, P. J., Prentice, I. C., Oren, R., Norby, R. J. (2014). Evaluation of 11 terrestrial carbon-nitrogen cycle models? against observations from two temperate free-air CO2 enrichment studies. New Phytologist, 202(3), 803-822. doi:10.1111/nph.12697.

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

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  • QUINCY model The terrestrial biosphere model QUINCY (QUantifying Interactions between terrestrial Nutrient CYcles and the cli- mate system) has been designed to allow for a seamless integration of the fully coupled carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus cycles with each other and also with processes affecting the energy and water balances in terrestrial ecosystems. It's main purpose is to serve as a test-bed for process hypotheses to evaluate their likely impact on terrestrial biogeochemcistry and its responses to climate variability and change. It has been designed as a modular, stand-alone model, but coupling to the land-surface scheme of the ICON model developed at Max Planck Institute for Meteorology is in progress.
  • OCN model. The dynamic global vegetation model OCN is a model of the coupled terrestrial carbon and nitrogen cycles (Zaehle and Friend, 2010; Zaehle et al., 2010, GBC), derived from the ORCHIDEE land-surface model (Krinner et al. 2005). It operates at an half-hourly time-scale and simulates diurnal net carbon exchanges and nitrogen trace gas emissions, as well as daily changes in leaf area index, foliar nitrogen and vegetation structure and growth. The main purpose of the model is to analyse the longer-term (interannual to decadal) implication of nutrient cycling for the modelling of land-climate interactions (Zaehle et al. 2010, GRL; Zaehle et al. 2011). The model can be run off-line, driven by observed meteorological parameters, or coupled to the global circulation model LMDz (Marti et al. 2005).
  • The group uses the High Performance Cluster at the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry and super computer of the German Climate Computing Centre (DKRZ) called blizzard.

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Former Team Members and Guests

Name Position
Melanie Kern PhD student
Martina Franz PhD student
Jürgen Knauer PhD student
Johannes Meyerholt PhD student
Dr. Karel Castro Morales PostDoc
Dr. Gregor Schürmann Postdoc
Dr. Kristina Luus Postdoc
Dr. Christoph Köstler Postdoc
Dr. Maarten Braakhekke Postdoc
Dr. Tea Thum PostDoc / Visiting Scientist from FMI, Helsinki
Dr. Daniela Dalmonech PostDoc
Steffen Richter Scientific Programmer
Ying Sun Visiting PhD student (University of Texas, Austin, US)
Goll, Daniel Visiting PhD student (MPI Meteorology)
Thomas, R Quinn Visiting PhD student (Cornell University)
Chang, Chao Ting Visiting PhD student (Centre de Recerca Ecologica i Aplicacions Forestals)
Lihui Luo Visiting PhD student (Chinese Academy of Sciences)

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