Chair of Biogeochemistry

What is biogeochemistry

Bio-geo-chemistry examines the physical, chemical, biological and geological processes in the system “earth” and tries to understand the composition and changes of ecosystems. A special focus of Biogeochemistry is on the cycles of important elements such as carbon and nitrogen, as well as their interactions with other substances and organisms - in atmosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere and lithosphere. These chemical cycles (in particular those of carbon, nitrogen, but also oxygen, sulfur, phosphorus or mercury) are either driven by microbiological activity or actively influence the same. Biogeochemical investigations therefore classically include analytical-chemical, microbiological, genomic and statistical methods. 

Welcome to the Biogeochemistry group at TU Bergakademie Freiberg

Ecosystem “functioning” of a landscape, such as its behavior as a source or sink of carbon, can only be understood through the integration of hydrological, geological and soil-ecological processes. At TU Bergakademie Freiberg, we work in relatively well-enclosed landscape "units" with specific boundary conditions, including, for example, the deep waters of lakes and dams (their hypolimnia) and sub-basins of streams (their upstream catchments). In our laboratories we simulate natural systems and observe their response to disturbances under controlled conditions. 

Our research not only targets current ecosystem functioning, but also aims to make predictions about how they will react to future disturbances. To this end, our research has a collaborative and interdisciplinary spirit, and crosses scales. We use freely available global data sets in our biogeochemical analyses and modeling as often as possible. 

The terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems are subject to constant change, and important current global trends include warming, increased nutrient availability (eutrophication), dam construction and the changes in regional rainfall patterns. What these trends have in common is that they affect the chemical and physical conditions of these ecosystems. Warmer lakes and reservoirs, for example, are more stably stratified, which can have an impact on greenhouse gases emissions, but also affects how the key nutrient phosphorus moves through the system. Less water in the landscape (e.g. due to less precipitation or longer periods of heat) can also favor the decrease of oxygen in water and soil, where oxygen-free (“anoxic”) zones can form.  

Our research therefore focuses on turnover processes (of C, N, O, S and Fe) in anthropogenically affected ecosystems, both terrestrial and aquatic, with the aim of predicting impacts on e.g. drinking water supply, greenhouse gas emissions and other critical landscape functions.