Terrestrial Ecosystem Science


Terrestrial Ecosystem Science SFA Project

DOE-SC-Biological and Environmental Research

Berkeley Lab Terrestrial Ecosystem Science Scientific Focus Area (SFA) Project

TES logoAccurate   understanding   of   soil   processes   is   critical   for   predicting   climate-ecosystem feedbacks, understanding terrestrial CO2 sinks, and optimizing mitigation via biofuels and sequestration. Currently, gaps in process-level understanding make the role of soils in global change highly uncertain. In this SFA, we conduct basic research on terrestrial biogeochemistry, with a focus on belowground soil carbon cycling and its role in terrestrial biogeochemistry and climate feedbacks.

The goals of the Berkeley Lab TES SFA research are to:

  • Increase process-level understanding of the controls of soil carbon turnover and stocks
  • Improve predictions of soil carbon response to climate change and land use change

We apply a combination of field and laboratory experiments, microbial ecology, advanced imaging, and numerical simulation modeling in five tasks:

Task 1. Whole-soil and lysimeter warming experiments: Biogeochemistry (Contact: Margaret Torn or Caitlin Hicks Pries)
Task 2. Functional analysis of microbial communities for soil carbon dynamics  (Contact: Neslihan Tas)
Task 3. Microbial carbon use efficiency: Controls on rates, processes, and products (Contact: Eoin Brodie)
Task 4.  SOM stabilization via organo-mineral interactions (Contact: Peter Nico)
Task 5.  Soil biogeochemistry and carbon cycle modeling (Contact: Bill Riley)

To predict the role of soils in terrestrial carbon cycling, we need to understand the microbial, plant, and abiotic processes responsible for organic-matter inputs, transformations, and loss—as well as plant-soil-nutrient interactions. Critical rates and pathways are not determined simply by compound chemistry, but are ecosystem properties—a function of climatic, mineral, physical, biotic, topographic, and historical factors. This conceptual model has major implications for climatic sensitivity of soil carbon decomposition, which we explore in this SFA. The other new element incorporated into this SFA is emphasis on the whole soil profile, not just surface horizons. Globally, subsoils contain more soil organic carbon than do surface horizons.