Study systems

Intensively managed grasslandsIMG_6616

The Netherlands is full of intensively managed grasslands. These often consist of monocultures of the highly productive grass Lolium perenne and can almost be more like croplands than like grasslands, especially when they are ploughed and reseeded every 5 years. I started my career working on these, and now that I am back in The Netherlands I am returning to them. How can we make these grasslands more resistant to climate change, and how can we maximise their potential to store carbon?



In The Netherlands, heathlands originated through overgrazing by sheep and cattle, whose manure, supplemented by the turf (top layer of the soil), was used on the fields closer to the settlement. This resulted in an accumulation of nutrients in the arable fields, and a depletion of nutrients in the heathlands. This cultural landscape is now highly valued and forms a unique habitat, but it is also threatened by nitrogen deposition (and a lack of management). We are investigating the effects of chronic drought on plants and soils in these systems, and the consequences for their functioning.

Species-rich grasslandsIMG_2218

Temperate grasslands are a great system to study aboveground – belowground interactions. There are a lot of them in the North of England, and their diversity and species composition are relatively easy to characterise and manipulate. I have done a lot of work in the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales, often in the rain, and I will continue to work in these systems.

Glacier forelands

Glaciers are melting. It is a nasty, but very useful truth. As glaciers melt, they expose barren material on which primary succession then starts – because the retreat of glaciers has been very well characterised since the 1850’s a nice and well characterised successional gradient is left behind. These  chronosequences are ideal for answering ecological questions about primary succession. I have recently done work on three glaciers – the Odenwinkelkees and Rotmoosferner in Austria, and the Damma in Switzerland – and will continue to do so.

Cropping systems

A bit less romantic than the previous ones, but ideal for answering questions about how changes in soil biodiversity as a result of management will affect the functioning of soils!

1 thought on “Study systems

  1. Can you please provide your e mail address because I have some scientific questions to clarfy. I am a student interested in soil ecology

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