Christian von Sperber

Environmental Biogeochemistry

Assistant Professor in the Department of Geography

Office: Burnside Hall 613B
Tel.: (514) 398-7501
Fax.: (514) 398-7437
Personal Website
E-mail: chris.vonsperber [at] mcgill.ca


Academic and professional background

  • Senior Scientist, Department of Agricultural Sciences, University of Bonn, Germany (2016 - 2018)
  • Postdoc, Department of Biology, Stanford University, USA (2014 - 2016)
  • PhD, Department of Environmental Science, ETH Zurich, Switzerland (2014)

Research interests

My research focuses on the biogeochemistry of phosphorus and nitrogen in terrestrial ecosystems, with a special emphasis on soils. I am particularly interested in understanding how biogeochemical processes in soils change along environmental gradients. For this purpose, I often use stable isotopes as a tool to characterize and trace such processes, both, in controlled laboratory settings and in environmental systems.


Current projects

  • The cycling of phosphorus and nitrogen in forest ecosystems

  • The effect of land-use changes on soil nutrient pools

  • The biogeochemistry of phosphorus along riparian buffer zones


Some recent publications

von Sperber, C., Stallforth, R., Du Preez, C., Amelung, W. (2017). Changes in soil phosphorus pools during prolonged arable cropping in semiarid grasslands. European Journal of Soil Science 68, 462-471.

von Sperber, C., Chadwick, O.A., Casciotti, K.L., Peay, K.G., Francis, C.A., Kim, A.E., Vitousek, P.M. (2017). Controls of nitrogen cycling evaluated along a well-characterized climate gradient. Ecology 98, 1117–1129.

Helfenstein, J., Tamburini, F., von Sperber, C., Massey, M.S., Pistocchi, C., Chadwick, O.A., Vitousek, P.M., Kretzschmar, R., Frossard, E., (2018). Combining spectroscopic and isotopic techniques gives a dynamic view of phosphorus cycling in soil. Nature Communications 9, 3226.