Terrestrial Safe Operating Space (TESS)


Terrestrial Safe Operating Space (TESS)

About the working group

We study the dynamics and interactions of terrestrial planetary boundaries, including their improved definition, quantification, regionalisation and operationalisation. Research builds on our long-standing expertise in process-based coupled simulation of ecosystem dynamics, water, carbon and nutrient cycling, and land systems including biomass plantations with our internationally leading biosphere model LPJmL.

Research Objectives

  • Comprehensive, spatially explicit quantification of terrestrial planetary boundaries (freshwater use, land-system change, nitrogen flows, biosphere integrity) and their linkages (including links to climate change)
  • Configuration of LPJmL (increasingly coupled into the POEM model) as a ‘planetary boundary simulator’ representing (nonlinear) interactions among key processes underlying the planetary boundaries
  • Systematic studies of effects of boundary transgressions on the status of respective other boundaries and on human societies
  • Assessment of opportunity spaces to stay within the boundaries through e.g. better crop/water management or diet shifts, considering trade-offs with other sustainability goals
  • Generation of contextual policy- and business-relevant knowledge on safe operating spaces and science-based environmental targets

Related Projects

Team members

Johanna Braun
Dr. Andrea Bues
Prof. Dieter Gerten
Dr. Holger Hoff
Prof. Wolfgang Lucht
Daniel Metzke
Dr. Lauren Seaby
Sibyll Schaphoff
Fabian Stenzel

Arne Tobian
Constanze Werner

Selected publications (past 5 years)

  • Gerten, D., Heck, V., Jägermeyr, J. et al. 2020: Feeding ten billion people is possible within four terrestrial planetary boundaries. Nature Sust. 3, 200–208.
  • Stenzel F, Gerten D, Werner C, Jägermeyr J 2019: Freshwater requirements of large-scale bioenergy plantations for limiting global warming to 1.5 °C. Environ. Res. Lett. 14, 084001.
  • Heck V, Hoff H, Wirsenius S, Meyer C, Kreft H 2018: Land use options for staying within the Planetary Boundaries - synergies and tradeoffs between global and local sustainability goals. Glob. Environ. Change 49, 73–84.
  • Heck V, Lucht W, Gerten D 2018: Biomass-based negative emissions difficult to reconcile with planetary boundaries. Nature Clim. Change, doi:10.1038/s41558-017-0064-y.
  • Jägermeyr J, Pastor A, Biemans H, Gerten D 2017: Reconciling irrigated food production with environmental flows for Sustainable Development Goals implementation. Nature Comm. 8, doi:10.1038/ncomms15900.
  • Boysen LR, Lucht W, Gerten D et al. 2017: The limits to global-warming mitigation by terrestrial carbon removal. Earth’s Fut. 5, 463–475.
  • Jägermeyr J, Gerten D, Schaphoff S et al. 2016: Integrated crop water management might sustainably halve the global food gap. Environ. Res. Lett. 11, 025002.
  • Heck V, Gerten D, Lucht W, Boysen LR 2016: Is extensive terrestrial carbon dioxide removal a ‘green’ form of geoengineering? A global modelling study. Glob. Planet. Change 137, 123–130.
  • Ostberg S, Schaphoff S, Lucht W, Gerten D 2015: Three centuries of dual pressure from land use and climate change on the biosphere. Environ. Res. Lett. 10, 044011.
  • Gerten D, Rockström J, Heinke J et al. S. 2015: Response to Comment on “Planetary boundaries: guiding human development on a changing planet”. Science 348, 1217.