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The University of Southampton
Ocean and Earth Science, National Oceanography Centre Southampton

Research project: DETECT: Destabilisation of the Terrestrial Biosphere in Warm Climates

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DETECT is a Royal Society-funded Dorothy Hodgkin Fellowship project which will investigate the response of the terrestrial biosphere during past warm climates. The project is funded by the Royal Society and the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF).

DETECT project

The terrestrial biosphere is the thin outer layer of the Earth that sustains life and includes plants, soil and microbes. A small fraction of the terrestrial biosphere is washed into rivers and eventually deposited in the ocean. This process is important because it helps to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. It may also be an important factor in mitigating future anthropogenic climate change. However, the importance of this process in future warm climates is one of the most poorly understood and quantified aspects of the climate system and remains a major gap in our understanding.

One way to test the behaviour of the Earth in warmer-than-present climate states is to examine the geological record. This is a central theme that has run throughout my research and can provide unique and powerful insights into our warm future. Using molecular fossils (biomarkers) and cutting-edge model simulations, I will use the geological record to test: 1) how the terrestrial biosphere responds to higher temperatures, and 2) how this influenced atmospheric CO2 concentrations.

This study will develop exciting new geochemical tools and will be relevant to other episodes of climate change during Earth's history. This work is timely and has the potential to provide a step-change in our understanding of the terrestrial biosphere and how the earth system responds to a substantial carbon cycle perturbation, such as current anthropogenic warming.

Funding provider: Royal Society and the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF)

Funding dates: 01/01/2020 – 31/12/2024

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