Rien Aerts, Full Professor and Head of the section Systems Ecology


I aim to contribute to answering the question how climate change affects the interactions between vegetation, soil, hydrosphere and atmosphere and the role of biodiversity therein? I do this by using a systems ecological approach with ramifications to soil microbial ecology and paying particular attention to feedback mechanisms. Central to my approach is quantifying the role of the vegetation in biogeochemical cycling using functional traits as the basis for response and effect parameters. This trait-based approach is used for both the role of living plants and the ‘afterlife’ effects they have through litter decomposition and soil nutrient mineralization. My research group studies, in cooperation with many national and international partners, the full array of hierarchical levels, going from soil microbial ecology to the global scale vegetation- and biogeochemical models.

The main study systems for the experimental work are high-latitude and high-altitude systems in Swedish Lapland, Spitsbergen and along the Antarctic Peninsula, as these are the systems where climate warming is most manifest. At all these sites experimental warming is deployed, starting from 2000 onwards. By spanning such large geographic gradients I hope to find common principles in the feedbacks between climate change and the functioning of cold biome ecosystems.

Selected Publications

Dorrepaal E Toet S van Logtestijn RSP Swart E van de Weg MJ Callaghan TV Aerts R (2009) Carbon respiration from subsurface peat accelerated by climate warming in the subarctic. Nature. 460:616.

Aerts R van Bodegom PM Cornelissen JHC (2012) Litter stoichiometric traits of plant species of high latitude ecosystems show high responsiveness upon global change without causing strong variation in litter decomposition. New Phytologist. 196:181.

Makkonen MA Berg MP Handa IT Hättenschwiler S van Ruijven J van Bodegom PM Aerts R (2012) Highly consistent effects of plant litter identity and functional traits on decomposition across a latitudinal gradient. Ecology Letters. 15:1033.

Handa IT Aerts R Berendse F Berg MP….. Hättenschwiler S (2014) Consequences of biodiversity loss for litter decomposition across biomes. Nature. 509:218.

Keuper F Dorrepaal E van Bodegom PM van Logtestijn R Venhuizen G van Hal J Aerts R (2017) Experimentally increased nutrient availability at the permafrost thaw front selectively enhances biomass production of deep-rooting subarctic peatland species. Global Change Biology. 23:4257.

Link to full publication list in PURE


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