Max Planck Society
Max Planck Institut for Biogeochemistry

Biospheric Theory and Modelling Group

Our research aims to understand how the whole Earth functions as one complex system that is strongly shaped by interactions, what the role of life is within this system, and how humans alter it. We approach our research from a perspective by which we view the Earth as a power plant that generates energy out of the incident solar radiation. This energy maintains the winds in the atmosphere, the currents within the world’s oceans, and the global biogeochemical cycles, such as the hydrological cycle. We use thermodynamics in our research to determine the limits on energy conversion rates of Earth system processes. We apply this approach to a range of different topics within Earth system science, for instance to better understand the role of life in the evolution of the Earth system, to describe changes in biogeochemical cycles with simple approaches, or to quantify the natural limits of renewable energy.

Energy conversions within the Earth system are central to a range of topics, ranging from basic questions regarding the drivers of geochemical cycles, the role of life to the limits of renewable energy.



Sonja Germer and Axel Kleidon (submitted), Did wind turbines in Germany generate electricity as would be expected from the prevailing wind conditions?, PLoS One.

Erwin Zehe, Ralf Loritz, Conrad Jackisch, Martijn Westhoff, Axel Kleidon, Theresa Blume, Sibylle Hassler, and Hubert H. Savenije (submitted) Energy states of soil water – a thermodynamic perspective on storage dynamics and the underlying controls , Hydrology and Earth System Sciences.

Taraka Davies-Barnard, Paul Valdes, Ryan Pavlick, Axel Kleidon, Andy Ridgwell (submitted) Vegetation Biodiversity Hotspots over the Inter-glacial cycle.

Maik Renner, Claire Brenner, Kaniska Mallick, Hans-Dieter Wizemann, Luigi Conte, Ivonne Trebs, Jianhui Wei, Volker Wulfmeyer, Karsten Schulz, and Axel Kleidon (submitted) Understanding model biases in the diurnal cycle of evapotranspiration: a case study in Luxembourg, Hydrology and Earth System Sciences.

Axel Kleidon and Maik Renner (submitted) Diurnal land surface energy balance partitioning estimated from the thermodynamic limit of a cold heat engine, Earth System Dynamics.

Axel Kleidon and Hubert H. G. Savenije (submitted) Minimum dissipation of potential energy by groundwater outflow results in a simple linear catchment reservoir, Hydrology and Earth System Sciences.

Recently published

1Porada, P., Van Stan II, J. T., Kleidon, A. (2018). Significant contribution of non-vascular vegetation to global rainfall interception. Nature Geoscience, 11, 563-567. doi:10.1038/s41561-018-0176-7.
2Loritz, R., Gupta, H., Jackisch, C., Westhoff, M., Kleidon, A., Ehret, U., Zehe, E. (2018). On the dynamic nature of hydrological similarity. Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, 22(7), 3663-3684. doi:10.5194/hess-22-3663-2018.
3Frank, A., Carroll-Nellenback, J., Alberti, M., Kleidon, A. (2018). The Anthropocene generalized: evolution of exo-civilizations and their planetary feedback. Astrobiology, 18(5), 503-518. doi:10.1089/ast.2017.1671.
4Wang, T., Sun, F., Ge, Q., Kleidon, A., Liu, W. (2018). The effect of elevation bias in interpolated air temperature datasets on surface warming in China during 1951-2015. Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres, 123(4), 2141-2151. doi:10.1002/2017JD027510.
5Buendía, C., Kleidon, A., Manzoni, S., Reu, B., Porporato, A. (2018). Evaluating the effect of nutrient redistribution by animals on the phosphorus cycle of lowland Amazonia. Biogeosciences, 15(1), 279-295. doi:10.5194/bg-15-279-2018.

>> Full list of publications


Group leader:

Axel Kleidon, Leader of the biospheric theory and modelling group.


Maik Renner, DFG-CAOS research unit, project "Thermodynamics and soil-vegetation-atmosphere transfer processes".

PhD Students:

Annu Panwar, working on land-atmosphere interactions and evapotranspiration.

Master Students/Interns/Visitors:

  • Luigi Conte, working on thermodynamics and surface energy balance partitioning in Amazonia.
  • Muye Du, working on hydrologic variability in China (visiting from Fubao Sun's group at the Chinese Academy of Sciences).

>> More on group


Dr. Axel Kleidon
Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry
Hans-Knoell-Str. 10
07745 Jena
Ph: +49 (0)3641 57-6217
E-mail: axel.kleidon AT bgc-jena DOT mpg DOT de

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