© A. Schroll/BGC

How we study

Methods and instrumentation

To study the exchange of essential elements, water and energy in different ecosystems, we collect and analyse air, water, soil and plant samples. In the analyses, we use biomarkers, stable isotopes and radiocarbon. For high-precision analyses and chemical digestions with high throughput rates, we operate specialised service laboratories in our institute.

To follow the cycling of essential elements and the trace gases in different spheres, we use samples taken from soils in various depths, from the vegetation and water sources, and from air. Samples may be coming from lab and field experiments, and from measurement campaigns in ecosystems including small and large towers, and on aircrafts. We also analyze respective datasets gathered from satellite missions. That way we can analyze element cycling in a broad range of the atmosphere as well as between the different spheres. 

In addition, we collect and process physiological, ecological and meteorological data in given study sites that may mechanistically explain aspects of the element cycling. These include different confounding factors, e.g., water availability, soil moisture, photosynthetic activity, plant traits, tree mortality, biodiversity and land use strategies.  

In order to interpret the vast amount of data and their different qualities, we use our scientists’ excellent computing expertise. To handle all the complex interactions and to make large leaps in scale, we rely on conceptual and computational models and data analysis by machine learning to test our understanding of the processes determining the state of the Earth System and how it responds to changes.

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