Life and Environment Section – University of Copenhagen

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Life and Environment Section

This section focuses on how organisms, and their interactions, structure and modulate ecosystems. We focus on understanding how global changes in the biological, physical, and chemical conditions on Earth influence ecosystem function and vice versa. Our work spans from the cellular to global scale and takes a systems approach to understanding how organisms and their physical environment shape ecosystem function now and in the future.

Ecosystems are made up of living and non-living elements that feedback to one another and shape functions humans rely on such as nutrient cycling. Ecosystem functions, therefore, result from interactions between climate and the biota mobilising and distributing nutrients. What species are present, i.e. the biodiversity, is important for determining the processes biota perform. Therefore, there is a close co-operation between the section for Life and the Environment and the section on Biodiversity.

Especially in the light of climate change, it is important to develop a better understanding of element exchange between the atmosphere and land/ocean. Therefore, much of the section’s research is currently focused on quantifying how biological activity in the soil and surface layers of the ocean influence conditions in the atmosphere – and vice versa.

Research areas

  • Direct and indirect effects of climate change on ecosystem dynamics
  • Interactions between human activities and function of the Earth System (Planetary Boundaries), including the role of biodiversity on the Earth System as a whole and interactions between human activities and ecology.

With an aquatic focus on  

  • Evolution, phylogeny, and taxonomy of micro-algae
  • Biodiversity of microalgae in time and space at the species and population level and its importance for carbon and nitrogen turnover in the ocean
  • Trophic interactions and chemical ecology of phytoplankton and their grazers
  • Life cycle studies of phytoplankton
  • Photonic qualities of diatom frustules and possible industrial use

And a terrestrial focus on

  • Elevational gradients and experimental manipulation to understand community and ecosystem responses to global climate change
  • Soil biology impacts on soil carbon dynamics
  • Plant-microbial feedbacks to ecosystem structure and function.