Human activities are rapidly changing atmospheric chemistry and land cover, with tremendous consequences for Earth’s climate system. Projections of future climate have large uncertainties, however, due in large part to uncertainties in drivers and feedbacks from coupled biogeochemical cycles that determine the future atmospheric concentrations of key greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O). Anticipating the response of the Earth climate system requires integrated understanding of biogeochemical processes from microbial to global scales. At the microbial scale, new tools now allow exploration of key microbial players; at the ecosystem scale, experiments and new networked observations reveal the often-surprising responses of whole systems to environmental changes; at the global scale, new coupled climate-biogeochemistry models, such as the Community Earth System Model (CESM), project responses to these changes, yet rely on algorithm development and model testing at varying scales.
This program provides for interdisciplinary research and training in the principles, measurement techniques, and quantitative approaches used at multiple scales, along with improved communication between empiricists and modelers and to the general public. This program builds on long-standing process-level expertise in biogeochemistry at Cornell University, and combines it with partnerships with ecosystem scientists at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies and with global climate-biogeochemistry modelers at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), and with international collaborators in biogeochemistry. Together, these partnerships and training activities will provide the next generation of graduate students with the ability to address the core science of biogeochemical drivers, responses, and feedbacks of climate change.