Max Planck Society
Max Planck Institut for Biogeochemistry

Terrestrial Biosphere Modelling
(ERC Research Group)

Dr. Sönke Zaehle
Research Group Leader

Phone: +49 (0)3641 57 - 6230

Group webpage

The Terrestrial Biosphere Modelling Group aims to improve the understanding of the interactions of the biogeochemical cycles of carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus at temporal and spatial scales 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.

Easy-to-understand fact sheet of the group (pdf)

Research Foci

  • Understanding the effects of interacting nutrient cycles (in particular nitrogen and phosphorus) on terrestrial biosphere dynamics and their climate feedbacks (QUINCY)
  • Understanding trends in and drivers of the net land carbon and nitrogen exchanges over the contemporary period (TRENDY).
  • Assessing and improving the capacity of current Earth system models to simulate the interactions of terrestrial biogeochemistry with the climate system (CRESCENDO).

Selected publications

Dalmonech, D., Zaehle, S., Schürmann, G., Brovkin, V., Reick, C., Schnur, R. (2015). Separation of the effects of land and climate model errors on simulated contemporary land carbon cycle trends in the MPI Earth system model VI. Journal of Climate, 28(1), 272-291. doi:10.1175/JCLI-D-13-00593.1.

Zaehle, S., Jones, C. D., Houlton, B., Lamarque, J.-F., Robertson, E. (2015). Nitrogen availability reduces CMIP5 projections of twenty-first-century land carbon uptake. Journal of Climate, 28(6), 2494-2511. doi:10.1175/JCLI-D-13-00776.1.

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.

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.

Zaehle, S., Dalmonech, D. (2011) Carbon-nitrogen interactions on land at global scales: Current understanding in modelling climate biosphere feedbacks. Current Opinions in Environmental Sustainability 3, 311-20; 10.1016/j.cosust.2011.08.008.

Arneth, A., Harrison, S. P., Zaehle, S., Tsigaridis, K., Menon, S., Bartlein, P. J., Feichter, J., Korhola, A., Kulmala, M., O'donnell, D., Schurgers, G., Sorvari, S., Vesala, T. (2010). Terrestrial biogeochemical feedbacks in the climate system. Nature Geoscience, 3(8), 525-532. doi:10.1038/ngeo905.

Mountain creek carrying glacier water representing the water cycle (photo: Susanne Héjja) Grainfield representing the anthropogenic changes by intensive land management (photo: Susanne Héjja) Thundery clouds representing the atmosphere (photo: Susanne Héjja) Landslide in the mountains representing the climate change impact (photo: Susanne Héjja) FACE experimental setup to investigate how forests will respond to increased levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide (photo: Yavor Parashkevov, Duke University)
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