PhD-position on the effects of elevated CO2 on soil organic matter turnover and plant N uptake (Jena, Germany)


PhD-position on the effects of elevated CO2 on soil organic matter turnover and plant N uptake (Jena, Germany)

May 1, 2015
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A large hurdle for the development of soil-vegetation models is the scarcity of field observations that characterise all aspects of the vegetation-soil interaction, because the fluxes between vegetation and soil are difficult to observe in the field due to their high
small-scale variability.

This PhD-position will perform a mesocosm experiment on small trees using a factorial treatment of 13C and 15N tracers at ambient and elevated CO2 concentrations. The aim of this experiment is to understand whether increased plant rhizodeposition
due to enhanced plant production under elevated CO2 increases plant nutrient availability, as hypothesised based on recent field

Questions to be answered are

(i) whether elevated CO2  increase above- and/or below ground biomass production or turnover,
(ii) whether this leads to increased soil organic matter decomposition,

(iii) whether changes in soil organic matter dynamics are driven by changes in plant roots or mycorrhiza,

and (iv) whether these changes lead to increased plant N-uptake from organic sources?

Technical assistance in the set-up and execution of the experiment will be provided by a technical staff member of the institute. The project is associated with a research project funded by the European Research
Council. More information can be found here:


a university degree (M.Sc or equivalent) in a quantitative science (e.g. geo-ecology, environmental science, biology, or soil sciences) with experience in laboratory work, in particular gas exchange measurements, or soil and vegetation sampling, as well as data analysis and statistics. Candidates should have an interest in applying their expertise to terrestrial ecology and global
change research, and to collaborate with ecosystem modellers to bridge the gap between observational and theoretical studies. Detailed knowledge of handling and interpretation of stable isotope samples, as well as plant-soil responses to elevated CO2 is an asset.

The PhD-student will be working in the Terrestrial Biosphere Modelling (TBM) Group of the Biogeochemical 
Integration Department at the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry in Jena, Germany.

The successful applicants will join a young and international team in a vibrant research environment, encompassing experimental and theoretical work on the role of the biogeochemical cycles of 
carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus in the Earth system. The TBM group has established an extensive network of international collaborations in Europe, the U.S. and Australia.

The conditions of employment, including upgrades and duration follow the rules of the Max Planck Society for the Advancement of Sciences  and those of the German civil service.

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.


Please send your inquiries and/or applications including a letter of interest, CV, and the names and contact
information of two references to Dr. Sönke Zaehle either via email to,

or directly to the institute’s address (Dr. SÃnke Zaehle, Max-Planck-Institut für Biogeochemie, Postfach 10 01 64,
07701 Jena, Germany).

Deadline: 1st of June 2015.

Interviews are foreseen to take place in Jena during June and July 2015.

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