PhD project offered by the IMPRS-gBGC in January 2022


Biodiversity impacts on the resistance of soil carbon dynamics to climate extremes

Markus Lange , Anke Hildebrandt , Gerd Gleixner

Project description

Soils store more than two third of the terrestrial organic carbon. However, soils can act as both as carbon source and sink, depending on the environmental conditions. Thus, in the context of climate change with its accompanied weather extremes, soil organic carbon is particularly vulnerable (Reichstein et al. 2013). On the other hand, biodiversity has been demonstrated to increase ecosystem resistance to such extremes (Isbell et al. 2015) and furthermore, to increase soil organic carbon storage (Lange et al. 2015).

To investigate the effect of biodiversity on the stabilization of soil carbon dynamics, this project will take advantage of long-term measurements of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) concentrations, gathered in one of the largest and longest running biodiversity experiment world wide – the Jena Experiment. These measurements from the Jena Experiment will be complemented with
i) measurements from different sites having different environmental conditions, and
ii) a microcosm experiment, manipulating climatic drivers.

The PhD candidate will use classical univariate statistics (e.g. ANOVA, LMM), time series analyses, as well as path modelling to gain detailed insights of the drivers of soil carbon dynamics. By combining the long-term measurements and data from the climate manipulation experiment, this project will improve our understanding of soil carbon dynamics.

Working group

Molecular Biogeochemistry at the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry


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 with
  • A Master's degree in (bio-)geochemistry, environmental science, geosciences, (geo-)ecology, geography, biology, computer science, soil science, hydrology or other disciplines related to environmental sciences
  • Strong skills in data-science and programming (R, Matlab, or Python) and statistics are mandatory, processing and analyzing large data sets
  • Background in soil science and knowledge of stable isotopes are of advantage
  • Good English language skills (written and spoken) and knowledge of German is an asset
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.

A) Areal picture of the Jena Experiment <br>
B) Bottles and flasks for soil water and soil gas observations in the Jena Experiment
A) Areal picture of the Jena Experiment
B) Bottles and flasks for soil water and soil gas observations in the Jena Experiment

>> more information about the IMPRS-gBGC + application