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What is EarthShape?

The overarching research question of this project is how microorganisms, animals, and plants influence the shape and development of the Earth’s surface over time scales from the present-day to the distant geologic past.

EarthShape bridges between scientific disciplines and includes geoscientists and biologists to study this complex question from different viewpoints. Approximately 60 German and 20 Chilean researchers are involved in a diverse range of projects of this priority program.
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All study sites are located in the north-to-south trending Coastal Cordillera mountains of Chile, South America. These sites span from the Atacama Desert in the north to the Araucaria forests approximately 1300 km to the south. The site selection contains a large ecological and climate gradient ranging from very dry to humid climate conditions. The sites were selected to avoid other complicating factors such as differences in rock type, and glacial, and volcanic impacts.

EarthShape is a 6-year priority program that started in 2016 and is funded through the German Science Foundation (DFG-SPP 1803).

How is the University of Göttingen involved?

The working group of Biogeochemistry of Agroecosystems of Jun.-Prof. Dr. Michaela Dippold in cooperation with the working group of Soil Science of Temperate Ecosystems is one of the German investigators working on the project. Their research focuses on „Root carbon shapes nutrient mobilization and recycling in the weathering zone“. Being crucial players in the chemical weathering processes, plants and microorganisms are able to mobilize and recycle nutrients and shape the earth surface. These processes are greatly depended on the availability of oxygen and water, as well as the supply of substrate and nutrients. Assessing the input of photosynthesis-derived C and its utilization by microorganisms, the project aims to gain insight into the effect of root-C on the nutrient acquisition by functional microbial groups and their potential for mineral weathering. The researchers aim to determine the effect of precipitation, landscape position (redistribution of water and nutrients), and depth (root distribution) on the C-nutrient-tradeoff between plants and microbes.


Jun.-Prof. Dr. Michaela Dippold

Biogeochemistry of Agroecosystems

Robert Bosch Junior Professorship
Sustainable Use of Renewable Natural Resources

Büsgenweg 2
37077 Göttingen

Tel.:+49 (0)551 39-33546


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