Dr. Galina Churkina

Senior Scientist

The overarching interest of Galina Churkina is the role of urbanization in the evolution of our planet Earth. In this, she is interested in identifying the sustainable pathways of urban growth benefiting both people and environment. She was among the pioneers of the holistic studies of the urban carbon cycle, spearheaded the idea of cities becoming carbon sinks, and outlined the methodology for their quantification. She was the first to show the prominence of the urbanization effect on the global cycle of carbon. Throughout her career, she and her colleagues noticeably advanced our understanding of the climatic and anthropogenic controls on the net primary productivity of the biosphere, the interactions between carbon/nitrogen cycles and the climate, as well as the trade-offs of tree planting campaigns for urban dwellers.


Working Group

Curriculum Vitae

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Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK)
T +49 (0)331 288 2062
P.O. Box 60 12 03
14412 Potsdam


Galina Churkina holds diploma in Mathematics from the Moscow State Lomonosov University in Russia and PhD from the School of Forestry, University of Montana, USA. Galina researched and taught at the flagship institutions and universities including Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, School of Natural Resources and Environment (University of Ann Arbor), Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, and Humboldt Universität zu Berlin.

Galina Churkina was a recipient of fellowships from Open Society Foundations, the German Science Foundation, and the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies. She received the Women of Distinction award from the Soroptimist International of the Americas. Elsevier issued her the reviewer recognition for outstanding contribution in reviewing.

Galina Churkina enjoys and has an extensive experience in inter- and transdisciplinary collaborations. She has served as a scientific advisor to interdisciplinary research projects as well as private companies. She is an associate editor of the Urban Ecology section at the Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution and has been a member of review boards in Europe and in the USA.

The anticipated growth and urbanization of global population over the next several decades will create a vast demand for the construction of new housing, commercial buildings, and accompanying infrastructure. Large amounts of construction materials and expanses of land will be required to accommodate this growth. All this will add to the pressure, which urbanization is already imposing on environment and global climate system. Cities are responsible for a major share of greenhouse gas emissions, control large fluxes of materials between city and hinterland, modify regional climate, and alter biodiversity patterns. Might it be possible to channel this process, which is a potential threat to the Earth system, into a sustainable pathway? In my research, I address this question focusing on understanding the feedbacks between urbanization, biogeochemical cycles, and climate across different spatial and temporal scales. I try to identify the most prominent issues and look for sustainable solutions.

Only selected publications are listed here. The full list of my publications is attached below in PDF format.

Churkina G, Organschi A, Reyer CPO, Ruff A, Vinke K, Liu Z, Reck BK, Graedel TE, & Schellnhuber HJ, Buildings as a global carbon sink. Nature Sustainability (2020)

Eisenman TS, Churkina G, Jariwala SP, Kumar P, Lovasi GS, Pataki DE, Weinberger KR, Whitlow TH, Urban trees, air quality, and asthma: An interdisciplinary review. Landscape and Urban Planning 187, 47-59, (2019).

Churkina G, Kuik F, Bonn B, Lauer A, Grote R, Tomiak K, Butler TM, Effect of VOC emissions from vegetation on air quality in Berlin during a heatwave. Environmental Science and Technology 51 (11), 6120-6130, (2018).

Tigges J, Churkina G, Lakes T Modeling above-ground carbon storage: a remote sensing approach to derive individual tree species information in urban settings. Urban Ecosystems 20, 97-111, (2018).

Churkina G, The role of urbanization in the global carbon cycle. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 3, (2016).

Churkina G, Grote R, Butler TM, Lawrence M, Natural selection? Picking the right trees for urban greening. Environmental Science & Policy 47: 12-17, (2019).

Schreyer J, Tigges J, Lakes T, Churkina G, Using Airborne LiDAR and QuickBird Data for Modelling Urban Tree Carbon Storage and Its Distribution—A Case Study of Berlin. Remote Sensing 6, 2014,10636-10655, (2016).

Churkina G, Brown D, Keoleian GA, Carbon stored in human settlements: the conterminous US. Global Change Biology, 16, 135-143, (2010).

Churkina G, Zaehle S, Hughes J, Viovy N, Chen Y, Jung M, Heumann BW, Ramankutty N, Heimann M, Jones C, Interactions between nitrogen deposition, land cover conversion, and climate change determine the contemporary carbon balance of Europe. Biogeosciences, 7, 2749-2764, (2010).

Churkina G, Brovkin V, Von Bloh W, Trusilova K, Jung M, and Dentener FJ, Synergy of rising nitrogen depositions and atmospheric CO2 on land carbon uptake offsets global warming, Global Biogeochemical Cycles, 23, GB4027, (2009)

Churkina G, Modelling carbon cycle of urban systems. Ecological Modelling, 216: 107-113, (2008).

Vetter M, Churkina G, Jung M, Reichstein M, Zähle S, Bondeau A, Chen Y, Ciais P, Feser F, Freibauer A, Geyer R, Jones CD, Papale D, Tenhunen J, Tomelleri E, Trusilova K, Viovy N, and Heimann M. Analyzing the causes and spatial pattern of the 2003 carbon flux anomaly in Europe using seven models. Biogeosciences, 5: 561-583, (2008).

Trusilova K and Churkina G, The response of the terrestrial biosphere to urbanization: land cover conversion, climate, and urban pollution. Biogeosciences 5: 1505-1515, (2008).

Trusilova K, Jung M, Churkina G, Karstens U, Heimann M, and Claussen M, Urbanization impacts on the climate of Europe: Numerical experiments with the PSU/NCAR Mesoscale Model (MM5). Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology, 47(5): 1442-1455, (2008).

Churkina G, Trusilova K, Vetter M, and Dentener FJ. Contributions of nitrogen deposition and forest re-growth to land carbon uptake. Carbon Balance and Management, 2:5, (2007).

Churkina G, Schimel DS, Braswell BH, and Xiao X, Spatial analysis of growing season length control over net ecosystem exchange. Global Change Biology, 11: 1777-1787, (2005).

Churkina G and Running SW, Contrasting environmental controls on the estimated productivity of different biomes, Ecosystems 1: 206-215, (1998).

Publications (PDF)

PDF document Churkina_Pubs2020.pdf — PDF document, 80 KB