Short CV/Education and training

  • 2003 – 2004
    Post-doctoral position, Global Ecology, Max-Planck-Institute for Biogeochemistry, Jena, Germany; Working on improving LPJ representation of fire in European and global natural ecosystems; development of the process-based fire model SPITFIRE

  • 2005 – 2007
    Marie-Curie-Fellow, School of Geographical Sciences, University of Bristol, UK; Coupling of mechanistic global fire models in coupled climate-vegetation models. Palaeo-climate application of dynamic vegetation-fire model LPJ-SPITFIRE

  • 2007
    Post-doctoral position, RD2 "Climate Impacts and Vulnerabilities", PIK Potsdam, Germany; Vulnerability of fire in Europe, the influence of humans on wildfires (EU FP6 Project ALARM)

  • 2008 – 2011
    Post-doctoral position, RD1 "Earth System Analysis", Potsdam-Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK); Co-Speaker of the Research group "Biodiversity and ecosystem services"; Working on climate-induced changes in fire regimes at the regional scale and related fire emissions

  • Since 2011
    Deputy Co-Chair Research Domain I "Earth System Analysis" and speaker of the research group "Ecosystem Stability and Transitions" at PIK

Selected publications

  • B. Sakschewski, W. von Bloh, A. Boit, A. Rammig, J. Kattge, L. Poorter, J. Peñuelas and K. Thonicke (2015). Leaf and stem economics spectra drive diversity of functional plant traits in a dynamic global vegetation model. Global Change Biology, DOI: 10.1111/gcb.12870.

  • Reichstein M, Bahn M, Ciais P, Frank D, Mahecha MD, Seneviratne SI, ..., Thonicke K, Walz A, Wattenbach M (2013). Climate extremes and the carbon cycle [Perspectives]. Nature, 500(7462), 287-295. doi: 10.1038/nature12350

  • Rammig A, Jupp T, Thonicke K, Tietjen B, Heinke J, Ostberg S, Lucht W, Cramer W & Cox P 2010. Estimating the risk of Amazonian forest dieback. New Phytol 187(3):694-706.

  • Forkel M, Thonicke K, Beer C, Cramer W, Bartalev S, & Schmullius C (2012). Extreme fire events are related to previous-year surface moisture conditions in permafrost-underlain larch forests of Siberia. Environmental Research Letters, 7(4). doi: 10.1088/1748-9326/7/4/044021.

  • Thonicke K, Spessa A, Prentice IC, Harrison SP, Dong L and Carmona-Moreno C (2010) The influence of vegetation, fire spread and fire behaviour on biomass burning and trace gas emissions: results from a process-based model. Biogeoscience, 7(6), 1991 – 2011.

  • Thonicke K, Venevsky S, Sitch S, Cramer W (2001), The role of fire disturbance for global vegetation dynamics: coupling fire into a Dynamic Global Vegetation Model. Global Ecology & Biogeography 10, 661-677.

Complete list of publications

Selected projects


  • Module/workpackage lead in the FP7 projects AMAZALERT (2011-2014,, Carbo-Extreme (2009-2013,, FUME (2010-2013, ), ROBIN (2011-2015,, as well as the BMBF-funded project LEGATO (2011-2016, and the DFG-funded German-Brazilian Graduate School IRTG 1740 (2011-2015, Working on the role of functional diversity on carbon storage in tropical forest ecosystems, impacts of climate extremes on ecosystem vulnerability and the carbon cycle, and the role of fire in land-use change processes in the Amazon.

Membership in scientific bodies/juries

  • Ecosystem Service Partnership

  • Associated Editor Biogeosciences and Earth System Dynamics

Soft Skills/Other activities and achievements

Soft Skills

  • Group leader since 2011 (3 PhD, 3 Post-Docs)

  • Mentoring female scientists (with young children) in science on work-life balance.

  • Teaching courses (BSc, MSc) on climate change at Institute of Earth and Environmental Science, Potsdam University, Germany


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  1. Biodiversity Helps Mitigate Climate Risks

    Prof. Kirsten Thonicke's team at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research could show how the Amazon forest would be able to adjust to moderate climate change due to its rich biodiversity.