PhD project offered by the IMPRS-gBGC in July 2019


Effects of changes in plant phenology on the climate system

Mirco Migliavacca , Matthias Forkel , Markus Reichstein

Project description

Phenology is defined as the timing of recurrent biological events and its relationship with biotic and abiotic factors. The global warming has been significantly altering vegetation phenology, mainly leading to an earlier onset and a longer growing season of vegetation. At the same time, changes in vegetation phenology can impact the seasonality of photosynthesis, water cycling and the energy balance of ecosystems. These impacts might in turn feedback on the climate system.
For example, an earlier onset of the growing season causes more CO2 absorption and an increase of gross primary production (GPP) in spring. However, the earlier spring onset might result in lower soil water content later in the season that can then limit photosynthesis and vegetation growth during the summer.
In this project we aim to understand how phenological changes influence climate through changes in biogeochemical and biophysical feedbacks, and to investigate a series of potential compensatory effects as the ones describe above. The project will make use of datasets from Earth observation satellites and weather reanalysis models together with ground observations of phenological changes.
Specifically, in this PhD project we plan to shed light on some overlooked interactions and feedbacks between phenology and the climate system and we aim at answering the following questions:
  1. How do phenological changes affect evapotranspiration, photosynthetic CO2 uptake and albedo at regional to global scales?
  2. What are the interactions and feedback between phenological changes and the climate system?
  3. What is the contribution of phenological changes to global climate change?


Applications to the IMPRS-gBGC are open to well-motivated and highly-qualified students from all countries. For this particular PhD project we seek a candidate willing to work with large dataset including satellite data and climate reanalysis. Capability to work in an international team, good communication and written skills in English language. The ideal candidate should be able to work with programming languages such as R, Python, or Julia.
The candidate should have a Master degree in a discipline related to the environmental sciences with a strong quantitative/computational background (e.g. geoecology, environmental science, biogeochemistry, biology, geography, environmental informatics, applied mathematics, physics).
The Max Planck Society seeks to increase the number of women in those areas where they are underrepresented and therefore explicitly encourages women to apply. The Max Planck Society is committed to increasing the number of individuals with disabilities in its workforce and therefore encourages applications from such qualified individuals.

>> more information about the IMPRS-gBGC + application