Climate change, nutrient deposition, changes in plant community composition, increases in atmospheric CO2 concentrations, and other disturbances have the potential to fundamentally alter ecosystem carbon (C) and nutrient cycling and sequestration, via changes in plant productivity, decomposition, and soil nutrient availability. Soils contain more than twice as much C as the atmosphere, mostly as organic matter. This large reservoir of soil organic C may be decomposed to CO2 to influence atmospheric concentrations. However, in many cases we do not understand the mechanisms controlling critical ecosystem processes, such as soil C cycling, well enough to predict the magnitude or even direction of changes in response to disturbances. Because soil microorganisms mediate C and nutrient fluxes, we need a better understanding of their role in regulating soil processes in order to predict how ecosystems will respond to changes. My research program is dedicated to developing a mechanistic understanding of terrestrial biogeochemical processes, such as decomposition and nutrient cycling. My goal is to gain insight into how terrestrial ecosystems function, and to help predict how they will respond to disturbances.

While our knowledge of the controls on soil organic C decomposition and sequestration is improving, many questions remain, and important new ones have arisen. Thus, my future research plans remain focused on understanding the fate of soil C and nutrients in a changing world.


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