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Max Planck Institut for Biogeochemistry

Relevance and human impact

Analyzing the numerous biogeochemical conversions involved in this global element cycles is one of the most important and most pressing scientific challenges of our times. Humanity is intervening in natural cycles on a global scale through land use and technological processes, without being able yet to foresee the long-term consequences. These interventions affect not only the climatically active trace gases in the atmosphere, but also land utilization and biodiversity.

For example, the use of fossil fuels, forest clearance and agricultural management release carbon dioxide in considerable quantities and could re-establish an atmosphere and a climate comparable to earlier geological ages. Since the beginning of industrialization, alterations in the concentration of the trace gases due to anthropogenic interference have been superimposed on the natural variations of these gases that occur on longer time scales.

Corn growing in Brazil after clearing the rainforest. Our team in the white bus is on its way to the measurement station. (Photo: Jan Muhr) The number of cattle in the Amazon has more than doubled between 1992 and 2004 to 57 million heads. (CIFOR, Center for National Forestry Research) (Photo: Jan Muhr)

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