Biogeochemical processes determining carbon sequestration in soils in the context of the agroecological transition and climate change


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INRAE presentation

The French National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food, and the Environment (INRAE) is a public research establishment under the dual authority of the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Research. It is a community of 12,000 people with more than 200 research units and 42 experimental units located throughout France.

The institute is among the world leaders in agricultural and food sciences, in plant and animal sciences, and is 11th in the world in ecology and environment. INRAE’s main goal is to be a key player in the transitions necessary to address major global challenges. In the face of the increase in population, climate change, scarcity of resources and decline in biodiversity, the institute develops solutions for multiperformance agriculture, high quality food and sustainable management of resources and ecosystems.

Work environment, missions and activities


One of the aims of INRAE is to ‘address the major environmental challenges and their associated risks’ with climate change at the forefront. Soils are now high on the agenda for their major role at the heart of these challenges, as shown by national (PEPR FairCarboN of PIA4) and European (Programme H2020 EJP SOIL and Mission - A Soil Deal for Europe in Horizon Europe) research support policies. This recruitment will help to develop highly ambitious collaborative research in this context by expanding the leadership of the institute in the field of soil science as well as its collaboration with major players in climate science. Through the CLand Convergence Institute and academic communities grouped around Paris-Saclay University, this campus is the ideal site to take up this scientific challenge. This project is perfectly in line with the missions of the AgroEcoSystem division, in particular on several scientific fronts laid out in its 2021-2025 strategic plan that come under the main scientific objective 4 (SO4): ‘Closing N/P cycles and carbon neutrality of agricultural systems’. It should contribute to INRAE's international programmes and the INRAE-CIRAD Africa Plan on soil and climate change.

Nature and purpose of the research project to be developed and related activities

The sequestration of carbon in soils is today recognised as a major lever to mitigate climate change. The underlying processes that determine the persistence of organic matter in soils and the diverse properties of soils merit to be considered further in models of carbon dynamics, including ‘Earth System Models’ developed by the climate science community. Better understanding of these processes is necessary for selecting sustainable soil management options according to the pedoclimatic context to enable additional carbon storage with no additional N2O emissions. A major scientific challenge remains the integration of knowledge, acquired predominantly at local level, on the processes of biotransformation and stabilisation of carbon in the soil in models on various scales up to global scale. This involves integrating complex biogeochemical processes determined by both the intrinsic characteristics of the soil and the multiple biological regulations likely to change them. This project thus aims to improve our understanding of both adaptation to climate change and its mitigation, and their coupling, to enrich the modelling of the fate of organic matter, including in ‘Earth System Models’. This should be achieved through greater consideration of the biological and biogeochemical processes involved in the soil of agroecosystems in relation to the scaling-up of the implantation of agroecological practices.

Nature and purpose of the teaching project

The Joint Research Unit ECOSYS is heavily involved in two Graduate Schools at Paris-Saclay University: BIOSPHERA and Geosciences, Climate, Environment and Planets. It leads courses for Master's degrees, in particular the specialisation Agrosciences, Environment, Territories, Landscape, Forests at Paris-Saclay University, the GSSE (Soil Management and Ecosystem Services) and CLUES (Climate Land Use and Ecosystem Services) courses. You will contribute to the core module for these two courses ‘Understanding and managing soil organic matter for ecosystem services delivery’; you will teach in partnership with C. Chenu. You will develop and propose lectures on the management of soil organic matter and ‘carbon farming’ to engineering students at AgroParisTech (in particular IDEA and PIST specialisations) and Master's students. You will develop, within the context of CLand and EJP SOIL, a follow-up to the German-French summer school #DySOM ('Advancing the analysis of dynamic soil organic matter interfaces across scales under global changes') organised by the University of Munich in 2021. You will supervise doctoral students at the doctoral school ABIES and obtain your HDR at this same doctoral school if you do not already hold this diploma.

The ECOSYS Joint Research Unit is heavily involved in the interdisciplinary initiative C-BASC, combining Climate, Biodiversity, Agroecology, and Society. You will contribute to the interdisciplinary scientific activities and teaching proposed within this context. Finally, you will play an important role in the development of workshops regularly proposed by CLand. The contexts of CLand and C-BASC are particularly favourable for interdisciplinary collaborations, especially with ‘Earth System Models’ specialists (LSCE). The context of EJP SOIL will boost the development of collaborations at European level that could gain in proportions within the framework of the ambitious research program, which comes under the Mission ‘A Soil Deal for Europe’. The insertion of the ECOSYS joint research unit in the ICOS network is also very favourable for international collaborations and to account for the carbon cycle at the ecosystem level.

These biological regulations involve both plants and organisms in the soil (microorganisms and fauna) of which the functioning itself is in turn affected by the land use, agricultural practices in the case of agroecosystems, and all the dimensions of climate change, including the increase in pCO2. The impact of the latter is, however, much less documented than variations in temperature and water availability.


Funding and related resources

 ANR package : 200 000€

Additional contribution INRAE : 121 000€

Training and skills

PhD or equivalent

You have extensive skills in geoscience and ideally in the field of biogeochemistry. Knowledge of the carbon cycle in soil and its interactions with other biogeochemical cycles would be particularly appreciated. You have an interest in the knowledge and formalisation of processes occurring in the soil. You have solid experience in the development and implementation of models. Knowledge of the Earth System Models developed by the climate science community would be appreciated.
Good command of English (written and spoken) is essential, as well as long-term international experience.

INRAE's life quality

By joining our teams, you benefit from:

- 30 days of annual leave + 15 days "Reduction of Working Time" (for a full time);
- parenting support: CESU childcare, leisure services;
- skills development systems: training, career advise;
- social support: advice and listening, social assistance and loans;
- holiday and leisure services: holiday vouchers, accommodation at preferential rates;
sports and cultural activities;
- collective catering.

Type of contract

Tenure-Track Junior Professor Chair is a new career route at INRAE. It enables the recruitment of scientists based on a research and teaching project that lasts three years. At the end of this period, and following an assessment of your scientific achievements and professional capabilities, you may obtain a full-tenure position as Research Director (DR2).

A research and teaching agreement will specify the path you will follow towards full-tenure and enable you to acquire the qualifications necessary to become a full-tenure Research Director in your field.

You have until June 14, 2022 to submit your application. Only candidates previously selected on file by the selection committee will be invited to the hearing.

Offer reference

  • Profile number: CPJ22-AGROECO-1
  • Category: A
  • Open competition number: /


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