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Margaret S. Torn

ecologist and biogeochemist: Earth and Environmental Sciences

Media contact: Dan Krotz, 510-486-4019,


As an ecologist and biogeochemist, and the head of the Lab's Climate and Carbon Sciences Program as well as an Adjunct Associate Professor in Energy and Resources at U.C. Berkeley, Margaret Torn studies climate change impacts on ecosystems and the services they provide to society.  Her work focuses on soil carbon, global change, and the impacts of human activities on ecosystem processes. 

She also studies the influence of the land surface on climate, including the potential for ecosystem-climate feedbacks to contribute to abrupt climate change.  Most of her projects are centered on four controls of soil carbon cycling and storage: soil minerals, nutrient status, climate, and land use.

Employing field experiments, isotopic analysis (14C, 13C), laboratory analysis, and mathematical models, she analyzes the natural carbon cycle and anthropogenic influence on the carbon cycle through land use (including bio-energy crops and sequestration management) and climate change.

She has published work on climate change impacts on wildfire, on biodiversity, and on ecosystem sources and sinks of greenhouse gases. At U.C. Berkeley, Torn teaches a class on climate change impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability, and a seminar on food systems.

Recent Publications

  • Riley, W.J., J.B. Gaudinski, M.S. Torn, J.D. Joslin, and P.J. Hanson. Fine root mortality rates in a temperate forest: estimates using radiocarbon data and numerical modeling. In press, New Phytologist.
  • St.Clair, S.B., E. Sudderth, C. Castanha, M.S. Torn, and D. Ackerly. 2009. Plant responsiveness to soil moisture and nitrogen is consistent across the functional diversity of a California annual grassland. In press, Journal of Vegetation Science.
  • Still, C.J., Riley, W.J., Biraud, S.C., Noone, D.C., Buenning, N.H., Randerson J.T., Farquhar G.D.,  Torn M.S., and J.A. Berry. 2009. The influence of clouds and diffuse radiation on ecosystematmosphere CO2 and C18 OO exchanges. Journal of Geophysical Research – Biogeosciences 114, G01018, doi:10.1029/2007JG000675.
  • St.Clair, S.B., E. Sudderth, M.L. Fischer, M.S. Torn, S. Stuart, R. Salve, D. Egget, and D. Ackerly. 2009. Variation in soil moisture and N availability modulates carbon and water exchange in a California grassland experiment. Global Change Biology. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2486.2009.01862.

Awards and Memberships

  • Secretary of Energy Outstanding Mentor Award
  • Kavli Fellow of the National Academy of Sciences
  • Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers
  • American Geophysical Union
  • Ecological Society of America

In the News


Ph.D., Energy and Resources, University of California, Berkeley

M.S., Energy and Resources, University of California, Berkeley

B.S., Conservation and Resource Studies, Highest Honors, University of California, Berkeley



Video Glossary - Carbon Cycle

last updated: 2017-08-04 10:23:03