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.

"The rainforest is the heart of the regional climate system"

Susan Trumbore of the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry on the effect of the forest fires in the Amazon on the global climate

'The effects of climate change are visible in many places'

Mathias Göckede, a scientist at the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry in Jena, talks about the consequences of global warming for permafrost soils

Earliest animals developed later than assumed

Ancestors of today's sponges formed 560 million years ago

Wind energy supplies almost three quarters of expected electrical energy

Ageing and slipstream effects restrict the actual yield – 20 percent of the difference remains unclear


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.

The amounts of carbon dioxide and other trace gases that vegetation and soil exchange with the atmosphere affect the climate in a variety of ways. Markus Reichstein and his colleagues at the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry in Jena are analyzing this complex structure – with the aid of a global network of measuring stations and new data analysis methods.

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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.


From bacteria to humans: Reconstructing early evolution with fossil biomarkers

2014 Hallmann, Christian Olivier Eduard

Earth Sciences Evolutionary Biology

Life on Earth is surprisingly old. After the formation of our planet, about 4.5 billion years ago, the Earth was a hostile place without solid crust, essential water and with regularly occurring meteorite impacts. After the first stabilization of environmental conditions and the condensation of liquid water, it didn’t take long for the first life to appear in the form of primitive unicellular bacteria. The Max Planck Research Group Organic Paleobiogeochemistry studies how life evolved from its first occurrence to the complex ecosystems that surround us today.


Global plant traits – a biodiversity database for Earth system sciences

2013 Kattge, Jens; Wirth, Christian (Max-Planck Fellow, Universität Leipzig)

Climate Research Earth Sciences Ecology Plant Research

The traits of living organisms define their interaction with the environment and are an essential basis of ecological research. At the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry the TRY initiative has united and consolidated worldwide collections of plant traits in a global database and makes them available for further research. The improved usage of plant trait data is expected to promote a paradigm shift from species- to trait-based ecology. Moreover, it facilitates accounting for biodiversity aspects in Earth system sciences.

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