Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry

Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry

The Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry in Jena conducts research into global material cycles and the associated chemical and physical processes. Carbon, oxygen, hydrogen and nitrogen are four elements that are crucial to life whose compounds are transported by plants, animals and microorganisms and distributed via the air and water. The scientists in Jena seek to gain a better understanding of the complex interaction between the organisms in the soil and the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, as well as the influence of humans on these natural processes. How do ecosystems react to various climate conditions, land-use practice and species diversity? To this effect, scientists at the Institute compare historical data with current observations from field experiments and measurement campaigns in order to draw conclusions on the future adaptability of organisms. They also work closely with the Max Planck Institutes for Meteorology in Hamburg and Chemistry in Mainz.


Hans-Knöll-Str. 10
07745 Jena
Phone: +49 3641 57-60
Fax: +49 3641 57-70

PhD opportunities

This institute has an International Max Planck Research School (IMPRS):

IMPRS for Global Biogeochemical Cycles

In addition, there is the possibility of individual doctoral research. Please contact the directors or research group leaders at the Institute.

Balzan Prize for Susan Trumbore

The Director at the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry is being awarded the Prize in the field of Earth System Dynamics

Drought 2018: Warm springtime’s unwelcome legacy

A new study shows that the severe impact of the summer drought that hit Europe in 2018 was partly due to the spring heatwave that preceded it. This triggered an early and rapid plant growth, depleting soil moisture

“The only things you want to conserve are the things you know”

Jana Wäldchen has played a key role in developing the plant identification app, Flora Incognita. We discussed with her how being able to identify different plants contributes to species diversity, which plant species are particularly under threat and how non-native species are suppressing local plants

The constant addition of nutrients into our ecosystems is depleting biodiversity

Interview with Sönke Zaehle from the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry about the role of nutrients in the decline of biodiversity

A glimpse into the future of tropical forests

New method enables predictions for the development of species-rich forest


This summer, there were more forest fires in Brazil than virtually any on record. Susan Trumbore, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry in Jena, is looking at the consequences that the immense loss of rainforest has on the local, as well as global climate. She also examines the likelihood of a forest recovering from a fire. If only it is given the chance.

Sometimes it takes a while for a person to find their vocation. Henrik Hartmann, for example, didn’t attend university until he was at an age when others have already earned a doctorate. Today, the forestry scientist heads a research group at the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry in Jena. And the things he experienced prior to studying were no less exciting.

Life on Earth stagnated for billions of years in the stage of primitive single-celled organisms. Only when cells acquired a nucleus did things really take off, leading to diversification and the dazzling variety of life forms we see today. Christian Hallmann and his team at the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry in Jena are investigating how, when and where that happened.

Biodiversity provides many ecological advantages. Using large-scale field tests, Gerd Gleixner and Ernst-Detlef Schulze, scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry in Jena, carry out research on biodiversity in meadows and forests, and explore its impacts on ecosystems and the Earth’s carbon balance. Their studies also yield surprising insights into the factors that really serve the purpose of species protection.

Seeing the Forest for the Trees

3/2014 Environment & Climate

Plants and soils play an important role in the global carbon cycle and in the Earth’s climate, not least because they absorb large amounts of carbon dioxide. Yet little is known about how global warming affects these natural sinks. Susan Trumbore, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry in Jena, has dedicated her research to this subject, and even enjoys getting her hands dirty in search of answers.

Scientific Project Manager (m/f/d)

Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, Jena September 14, 2020

PostDoc (m/f/d) Model-data synthesis using data from ecosystem manipulation experiments

Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, Jena September 04, 2020

Klimaextreme: Von der Detektion bis zur Vorhersage

2019 Mahecha, Miguel;  Reichstein, Markus

Climate Research Earth Sciences Ecology Microbiology

Climate extremes, in particular heat waves, droughts, and their combination are inevitably increasing as a result of climate change. But little is known about how these events affect the terrestrial biosphere, which ecosystem functions are severely affected, and what feedbacks this may trigger in the climate system. At the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry we are developing new methods for the detection of extreme events in heterogeneous data streams. Our results show, among other things, how differently various ecosystems can react to extreme events.


Water, ice and snow: Driving forces of climate change in the Arctic

2018 Dr. Mathias Göckede

Climate Research Earth Sciences Ecology Microbiology

How stable carbon will remain in the Arctic permafrost in the future, instead of escaping into the atmosphere as a greenhouse gas, is of utmost importance for the global climate. Water, ice and snow play an important role here. Our field research in Siberia uses new data and models to explain how the redistribution of water and increased snow cover, two known consequences of current climate change, can further destabilize the carbon pools in the Arctic. Our results help to assess the role of the Arctic in global climate change more reliably.    


The competition of plants and soil microorganisms for important nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus is a key determinant of the amount of carbon that can be stored in land ecosystems. Combining new laboratory experiments and improved numerical ecosystem models generates new insights into the intricate effects of this nutrient limitation for the future development of land carbon storage. This research contributes to a better understanding of the effects of anthropogenic carbon dioxide emission of climate.


To spend or not to spend, that is the question.

2016 Hartmann, Henrik

Climate Research Ecology

Plants harvest energy from sunlight and store it in chemical compounds. These substances are the primary food source for other life forms and make plants the basis of all life on Earth. Plants also play an essential role in regional and global element and energy cycles and buffer changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations from anthropogenic sources. Like small business companies, they have to manage and allocate resources to optimize fitness and survival. In the research group Plant Allocation, novel methods are developed and employed to derive plant resource management strategies.


The carbon cycle from a different perspective

2015 Marshall, Julia

Climate Research Earth Sciences Ecology

Satellite measurements of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) promise an improved understanding of the carbon cycle due to their higher spatial coverage. Measurements of atmospheric concentrations of CO­2 are interpreted with the help of inverse techniques in order to estimate fluxes between the surface and the atmosphere. However, fluxes derived using satellite measurements show significant systematic difference compared to those using surface-based measurements. These differences need to be understood in order to properly exploit this promising new data stream.

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