J. Hans C. Cornelissen, Full Professor


I am interested in the role of functional trait variation in plant and ecosystem functioning, with a particular focus on how vegetation composition impacts on carbon and nutrient cycling. I like to find out not only what determines the functional (trait) diversity of plants in ecosystems, but also how (much) this functional diversity drives important carbon cycling processes. These processes include plant carbon and nutrient gain processes (photosynthesis, nutrient uptake strategy – e.g. snow roots) but especially carbon and nutrient loss processes, such as litter decomposition, fire and herbivory. I study linkages between traits and carbon cycling through lab and field experiments, trait database analyses and meta-analyses, from local to global scale. Via collaborations with modellers I also study how plant trait variation feeds back to climate via carbon cycling processes. Furthermore I study evolutionary patterns in these processes: the Tree of Life of carbon cycling. This approach helps us to reconstruct carbon cycling in the past. In the fire lab, FLARE, we carry out ecological fire experiments. I also coordinate the large ‘tree cemetery’ experiment, LOGLIFE, on tree trait effects on coarse wood decomposition and associated biodiversity. Finally, I am heavily involved in various global change impact experiments and meta-analyses.

Selected Publications

Cornelissen JHC, Grootemaat S, Verheijen LM, Cornwell WK, van Bodegom PM, van der Wal R, Aerts R (2017) Tansley Review: Are litter decomposition and fire linked through plant species traits? New Phytologist. doi: 10.1111/nph.14766

Diaz S, Kattge J, Cornelissen JHC et al. (2016) The global spectrum of plant form and function. Nature. 529:167-U73.

Zuo J, Berg MP, Klein R, Nusselder J, Neurink G, Decker O, Hefting MM, Sass-Klaassen U, van Logtestijn RSP, Goudzwaard L, van Hal J, Sterck FJ, Poorter L, Cornelissen JHC (2016) Faunal community consequence of interspecific bark trait dissimilarity in early-stage decomposing logs. Functional Ecology. 30:1957-1966.

Cornwell WK, Elvira A, van Kempen L, van Logtestijn RSP, Aptroot A, Cornelissen JHC (2015) Flammability across the gymnosperm phylogeny: the importance of litter particle size. New Phytologist. 206:672-681.

Cornelissen JHC, Cornwell WK (2014) The Tree of Life in ecosystems: evolution of plant effects on carbon and nutrient cycling. Journal of Ecology. 102:269-274.

Link to full publication list in PURE