Interactions between ecosystems and climate

My research aims to improve the current understanding of how ecosystems and atmosphere influence each other. The land and the atmosphere are tightly coupled systems that interact with in multiple ways.

Biophysical interactions - Vegetation and land surface properties, such as albedo, surface roughness, soil moisture, and plant physiological behaviour (e.g., stomata control), characterize how much energy (as received from short- and long-wave radiation) is attributed to the turbulent land-atmosphere fluxes of water vapour and sensible heat. These energy fluxes control the growth of the atmospheric boundary layer (i.e., the layer of the atmosphere that is directly affected by land surface processes) and its temperature and humidity dynamics. In a world of changing climate and human-induced land cover change, changes in land surface properties can thus influence regional climate dynamics.

Biogeochemical interactions - Photosynthesis removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and fixes it as carbon in biomass. Both plant respiration and decomposition of plant litter and soil organic matter returns a part of the fixed carbon back to the atmosphere. This dynamic uptake and release of carbon dioxide by the biosphere regulates to a large extent seasonal patterns of carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere and modifies long-term trends of atmospheric carbon dioxide. Another potent greenhouse gas - methane - is mainly emitted from wetland soils and its emissions are sensitive to hydrological and temperature changes. Understanding how methane emissions respond to a changing climate is therefore a crucial step to a better understanding of the role of wetlands in the global climate system.

In my research, I make use of direct measurements of energy and greenhouse gas fluxes between land and atmosphere (with the eddy covariance technique), of remote sensing observations monitoring land surface changes over multiple years and over large spatial scales, and of modelling approaches to assess the broader implications of our observations.