In my lab, we primarily focus on (1) causes and consequences of coastal ecosystem degradation, and (2) development of novel applications to preserve and/or restore coastal ecosystems.
Central in the first research line is the ecosystem-level importance and functioning of habitat modifying species – also called “ecosystem engineers” or “foundation species” – that stimulate their own growth by improving their environment through density- and patch size-dependent feedbacks. Clear examples are reef-building bivalves, seagrasses, salt marsh plants, and dune-building plants that attenuate currents and waves, increase water clarity, and modify sediment conditions. Apart from these intraspecific (within species) feedbacks, we found that foundation species can also engage in mutualistic feedbacks to further improve their growing environment.
The second research line builds on the first with the aim of extending fundamental findings to develop applications for preserving or restoring degrading coastal ecosystems. The most recent studies from my group reveal that inclusion of both intra- (within species) and interspecific (between species) facilitation in transplant designs can greatly amplify restoration yields. Moreover, our most recent experiments show that of temporary biodegradable structures that bridge establishment thresholds for habitat-modifying plants and bivalves, form a promising technical solution to successful restoration of coastal ecosystems.
Some projects my lab is currently involved in:
- An ancient detoxification mutualism – A missing link of seagrass of conservation?
- Developing multipurpose biodegradable structures for generating ecosystem services – Bridging thresholds
- Rebuilding The natural integrity of barrier islands
- Marine Ecosystem Restoration in Changing European Seas (MERCES)
- Restoration of the Wadden Sea island Griend (in Dutch)
- The risk of mutualism breakdown in coastal biogeochemical hotspots