Scaling up soil carbon dynamics from microbial cells to ecosystems for next-generation Earth System models

Emissions of the greenhouse gases from soils are one order of magnitude larger than anthropogenic emissions and quantifying them is a major challenge in climate change research. It is challenging because emissions originate from microbial processes at microscopic scales that we cannot readily observe. The mathematical models used to simulate emissions from soils worldwide neglect the role of these small-scale processes and can thus make inaccurate predictions. This project will fill this knowledge gap by describing mathematically how soil micro-organisms use soil resources at a microscopic scale. Experiments using high resolution soil imaging, and thermodynamic and biochemical techniques will specify relations between the microscopic structure of soil pores and microbial activity, and support the theoretical developments that are the ultimate aim of the project. New theories linking micro- and macro-scales will provide novel mathematical formulations, allowing more accurate predictions of climate change, its effects on ecosystems and the development of alternative soil management practices in agriculture and forestry.