CREAF leads the project IMBALANCE-P funded by the prestigious research program ERC Synergy Grants of the European Union. The project has received 13.6 million euros and will take place over the next 6 years.

IMBALANCE-P brings together a multidisciplinary team of well-known researchers, from four different research institutions. Led by Prof. Josep Peñuelas, CSIC researcher from the CREAF, the project will study the current changes in the carbon, phosphorus and nitrogen balances in the different ecosystems of the planet and assess the impact of the imbalances between these three elements for life on Earth.

The CREAF team, headed by Josep Peñuelas from de Spanish National Research Council, has been selected to get a Synergy Grant, a pilot funding scheme of the ERC that supports small groups of excellent researchers jointly tackling research problems and pushing forward the frontiers of knowledge. The selected project is called IMBALANCE-P and aims to quantify and understand the responses of Life, Society and the Earth System to current and future P shortages and the N, C and P imbalances that are suffering the planet.

Phosphorous is a scarce but essential resource on Earth. For instance, it is present in DNA structure, cell membranes, enzymes and bones. It is also used in fertilizers, thus supporting the food demand of an ever growing population. Unfortunately it is a finite resource and there is no synthetic way of creating it. In contrast to carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) which are available abundantly, P reserves are limited in most natural environments, and the trend is likely to continue in the next century. These constraints have already triggered some geopolitical disputes.

Principal investigators:
Josep Peñuelas, CREAF, Spain; Investigador responsable
Ivan Janssens, University of Antwerp, Research group of Plants and Ecosystems (PLECO), Belgium
Philippe Ciais, UVSQ, France
Michael Obersteiner, IIASA, Austria

Project title:
Effects of phosphorous limitations on Life, Earth system and Society (IMBALANCE-P)

ERC funding: EUR 13.6 million

website Imbalance-P

A macro experiment in the rainforest of French Guiana

A macro experiment in the rainforest of French Guiana:
The team of IMBALANCE-P will conduct experiments in all biomes and cultures of the world, and in particular a macroexperiment in the rainforest of French Guiana, where they will study how the on-going shifts in C:P:N balance affect biodiversity, climate and agriculture. The researchers will also look at the effects of future P shortages on food security and will help to design future scenarios for food production under limited P resources, and effective policy actions.

This collaboration across multiple and diverse disciplines is unique – including experts in eco-physiology, metabolomics, atmospheric physics and chemistry, remote sensing, economy and agriculture. The global implications of limited P resources have never been studied in such an integrated way. The contribution of the team to the establishment of a science-based P diplomacy will be highly valuable to life, society and the preservation of the planet.

Blog of 4 PLECO-researchers (Lore Verryckt, Leandro Van Langenhove, dr. Clément Stahl, dr. Elodie Courtois)