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Terrestrial Safe Operating Space

IMG_4086_480x480.jpgHead: Dieter Gerten

Team: Holger Hoff (senior researcher), Wolfgang Lucht (RD I Chair), Daniel Metzke (scientist), Sibyll Schaphoff (research scientist and programmer), Lauren Seaby (scientist), Fabian Stenzel (PhD student), Constanze Werner (PhD student), Arne Tobian (guest).

For our News Ticker see here. Also see our comprehensive PanClim climate data of pattern-scaled GCM simulations for global mean warming levels.

We are involved in the Sustainable Water Future Programme's (SWFP) SDG Assessment Core Group and Groundwater Management Working Group. and the Planetary Boundaries Network.


The future is still open, but development pathways are constrained by environmental limits. We systematically explore planetary opportunity spaces for resource use (biomass, land, water) of future societies as constrained by "planetary boundaries". Boundaries are designed and quantified anew, geographically explicitly, and with novel metrics, and their interactions and dynamics are explored. Opportunities are approached from a system-analytic viewpoint open to major system transitions. Research builds on our internationally leading expertise in coupled simulations of crop growth, ecosystem dynamics, carbon cycling, water use and bioenergy potentials with a unique model frame (LPJmL).

Research agenda

  • Comprehensive quantification of planetary boundaries related to the land surface (water, land use, nitrogen release) and their interrelations, using novel metrics for the societal importance of their transgression.
  • Systematic assessments of planetary opportunity spaces (including trade-offs) to stay within the boundaries through e.g. better crop/water management, spatial re-allocation of production patterns, and cultural changes such as diet shifts.
  • Demonstration of sustainable pathways, foreseeing possible collisions of global sustainability goals.
  • Co-production of policy-relevant knowledge on environmental targets, integrating top-down and bottom-up contextual information for improved horizontal and vertical policy coherence.

See a list of our top 10 recent publications.


International cooperation partners

Photo by Lena Österle

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