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Methusalem Holder Ivan Janssens

Global Ecosystem Functioning and Interactions with Global Change

Ecosystems sustain society by providing natural resources and socio-economic services. Understanding their functioning is thus vital for accurate projections of key processes such as global climate and food production, and is prerequisite to drawing up policies for sustainable management of the planet.

This proposal therefore aims at creating the scientific breakthroughs needed to make major advances in the understanding of several critical processes that determine the functioning of ecosystems and their interactions with ongoing changes in climate and resource availabilities.

The overarching, long-term goal is to gain thorough understanding of how ecosystem functioning is controlled by its principal environmental drivers - climate and resource availability - so that we can, in collaboration with modelling groups, confidently project how ecosystem functioning and services will change in the near and distant future.

To pursue this goal, the following four research lines will be prioritized when allocating the Methusalem funding:
1. Obtaining a quantitative understanding of plant carbon allocation to growth, energy production (respiration), and nutrient acquisition (fine roots, root exudation, root symbionts).
2. Improving insight in, and measurements of, biomass production.
3. Better understanding soil carbon dynamics and sequestration.
4. Understanding spatial and temporal variation in carbon and greenhouse gas balances at ecosystem to regional scale and attribution to drivers.

In each of these research lines, we aim to understand the mechanisms underlying the global and local spatial variation, as well as those underlying the short-term temporal patterns and long-term trends. Focus is on how Global Changes (climate change including extreme events, increasing atmospheric CO2 concentration, nitrogen deposition, etc.) are affecting ecosystem processes and functioning.