Research

MCE

Microclimate ecology

Microclimate conditions are key to understanding how organisms respond to warming, yet they are frequently neglected in ecological research. We aim to unravel the drivers and impact of microclimate conditions on species range dynamics

CC

Global change effects

We aim to improve our understanding of the effects of global change on biodiversity and the functioning of terrestrial ecosystems. We focus on climate change and invasive species, as these are identified as two of the most important anthropogenic drivers of biodiversity loss

BD

Biodiversity conservation

Nature conservation is stuck in the detrimental paradigm of preventing community changes under changing conditions. We aim at developing global change-robust solutions for the biodiversity crisis, one of the biggest challenges in the Anthropocene

ecoinf

Ecoinformatics

We combine big data with state-of-the-art modelling techniques (machine learning, SDM, SEM, …) to extract patterns and answer ecological questions on large spatial scales

fieldwork

Field work

We collect new primary ecological data in natural and anthropogenic systems; species composition, vegetation structure, ecosystem functions, plant functional traits, …

drones

Drones

We fly drones to characterise how ecosystems are responding to rapid environmental change. Drones provide a unique opportunity for acquiring low-cost, high-resolution imagery at a regional scale

Lab members

Principal Investigator

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Koenraad Van Meerbeek

Assistant Professor

Current members

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Chang Liu

PhD student

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Esther Tubbax

Master student

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Karlien Moeys

PhD student

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Liezl Vermeulen

PhD student

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Pommelien Coppens

Master student

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Pu Yan

visiting PhD student

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Sanne Verdonck

PhD student

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Sarah Bracke

Master student

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Senne Spreij

Master student

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Stef Haesen

PhD student

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Ward Fonteyn

PhD student

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Xiaqu Zhou

PhD student

Alumni

Jo De Ryck

Master student

Julie Bauwens

Master student

Katherine Pulido

Master student

Lennert Destadsbader

Master student

Mona Huyzentruyt

Master student

Pepijn Devriendt

Master student

Ruth Vanhaecht

Master student

Vito Leyssens

Master student

Xin Jing

Postdoc

Research projects

Microrefugia for European plant species

Identifying and validating climate change refugia for forest plants in Europe

Invasive tree species in South-Africa

Studying impact and land-use vulnerability of invasive tree species in South-Africa

Microclimate temperature heterogeneity

Study of microclimate heterogeneity across small scales using soil temperature data

Stability of the Amazon rainforest

Stability of the Amazonian rainforest in the face of extreme droughts

Thinning in temperate forests

Investigating the drought alleviation potential of thinning in temperate forests

Tipping points in southern Africa

Studying ecosystem structure, health and functioning using remote sensing

Water thresholds in the Cerrado

Using remote sensing to estimate tipping points in water content thresholds

Mechanisms driving B-EF in forests

Importance of above- and belowground linkages in forest ecosystem functioning

Sustainable green roofs in Peru

Nature-based solutions for the design of functional and climate-robust urban green

Towards climate smart forestry

Modelling the effects of extreme droughts on forest ecosystem functioning

What forest plant species feel

Incorporating microclimate temperature into species distribution models

Recent Publications

Effects of snow cover-induced microclimate warming on soil physicochemical and biotic properties

Geoderma, 2022
Effects of snow cover-induced microclimate warming on soil physicochemical and biotic properties

Competition mediates understorey species range shifts under climate change

Journal of Ecology, 2022
Competition mediates understorey species range shifts under climate change

Unveil the unseen: Using LiDAR to capture time-lag dynamics in the herbaceous layer of European temperate forests

Journal of Ecology, 2022
Unveil the unseen: Using LiDAR to capture time-lag dynamics in the herbaceous layer of European temperate forests

Global maps of soil temperature

Global Change Biology, 2022
Global maps of soil temperature

Above- and belowground complementarity rather than selection drives tree diversity-productivity relationships in European forests

Science of the Total Environment, 2022
Above- and belowground complementarity rather than selection drives tree diversity-productivity relationships in European forests

Join the lab

At the moment, there are no open vacancies at the lab. However, I am always interested in hearing from motivated students or researchers to collaborate on topics of mutual interest. Have a look at Research and our Research projects to see what we are doing. So if you are interested in applying for a PhD or postdoc fellowship, you are always welcome to contact me. The different opportunities are listed below.

Funding opportunities for PhD students

Funding opportunities for Postdocs

Why choose KU Leuven?

You’ll be part of a unique and stimulating environment to do research. In 2020, KU Leuven is on the 45th place in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings. THE assesses universities on the basis of Teaching, Research, Citations, Industry Income and International Outlook. This year for the first time, KU Leuven is also featured in the THE top 50 of international universities, due in part to the recent influx of foreign students at the university. Since 2016, KU Leuven is heading the Reuters list of Europe’s most innovative universities. The Reuters ranking is based on various parameters that map the research output of the institutions. This includes articles in scientific journals, but also patent applications, with which a university protects and commercialises its research results.

The main campus of the university is situated in Leuven, a place characterized by its beautiful architecture and one of Belgium’s most attractive cities. With almost 50.000 students in a city of 100.000 inhabitants, Leuven has a specific atmosphere that is quite unique in the world. The student dorms, study rooms and lecture halls are spread over and integrated in the city and can be next to a cosy little restaurant or a vibrant student bar. The presence of about 10.000 international students from about 150 different countries and an international meeting centre called Pangaea make it easy to meet people from all over the world!

As a student or researcher at KU Leuven you are in the heart of Europe. Major international cities like London, Paris, Köln and Amsterdam are all less than 2 hours away by train. The nearby international airport (just 15 minutes by train from both our Brussels and Leuven Campus) connects you to the rest of the world. This means international students at KU Leuven have the luxury of not only being able to discover Belgium, but also a whole list of either neighbouring countries in the same amount of time. This is truly Europe at your doorstep.

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