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Dr Bjorn Robroek PhD

Guest Lecturer in Ecology

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Bjorn Robroek was a lecturer in Plant Ecology and Biodiversity at the University of Southampton between 2017 and 2019. His research focused on the interactions between plant communities and belowground (microbial) communities, with a special interest in the effects of environmental change on plant-soil interactions. Bjorn is now continuing his research at Radboud University Nikmegen and is an affiliate of the School of Biological Sciences.

Assessing the role of plants on ecosystem functions and the impact of environmental change on plant-soil interactions is essential to comprehend the fate of ecosystem functioning in a changing climate

Career History

2017-2019: Lecturer in Ecology. University of Southampton, UK.
Scientific collaborator (80%). École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland.
2011-2014: NWO-VENI Research Fellow. Utrecht University, Netherlands.
2009-2011: Postdoc. Faculty of Biology, Utrecht University, Netherlands.
2008-2009: Postdoctoral Research Assistant. University of Leeds, UK
2007-2008: Postdoc. Faculty of Geosciences, Utrecht University, Netherlands.

Academic History

2003-2007: PhD Environmental Sciences. Wageningen University, Netherlands.

Research interests

Bjorn Robroek ResearchGate Page

My expertise is in plant community ecology, functional ecology, carbon and nitrogen cycling, plant-microbe interactions, and global change ecology. I am particularly interested in peatlands and acid grasslands.

Many ecosystems have locked away large amounts of carbon, making research on their functioning in a changing climate highly relevant to society. The carbon sink function of many ecosystems is largely the result of an imbalance between carbon uptake and loss. The underlying mechanism is often sought in environmental conditions that inhibit microbial respiration (i.e. decomposition). Ecologists have, however, long acknowledged the importance of linkages between plant species and belowground communities for sustaining ecosystem processes such as carbon and nutrient cycling. My results from two competitively funded projects (The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research: 863.10.104 (PI); Swiss National Science Foundation: 315280-14807 (Co-I)) have shown that relationships between plant community assembly and ecosystem processes (Ecology 95:123-131; Plant Soil 407:135–143) are most likely mediated through plant community-specific microbiomes (J. Ecol. 103:925-934; Soil Biol. Biochem. 81:204–211; Sci. Rep. 5:16931). My current research interest focuses on whether plant community assembly determines microbial functioning, and to test if specific plant-microbe relationships can enhance the stability of the peat carbon stock. Such knowledge would provide tools to target the conservation of ecosystem functions.

Another line of research focuses on the effects of environmental conditions on the plant and microbial functional composition in European peatlands. I am particularly interested in putting community assembly rules to the test.

Much of my work concentrates on peatlands, with field sites in Sweden and Switzerland, at Store Mosse National Park and the Silvopastoral grasslands of the Swiss Jura.

Research Projects

Plant-soil-process interactions
My current work largely focuses on the role of the plant community composition –taking a functional approach– on soil biological and (organo-) chemical factors, and how links between these components in ecosystems affect carbon and nutrient dynamics. Furthermore, I am interested if these plant–soil–process links add to the 'robustness' of ecosystems to withstand environmental perturbation.

No place like home
Do microbial processes adapt to local plant communities? My recent research focuses on understanding the degree of connectivity between plant communities and microbial communities, including microbial functioning. The ultimate goal is to identify the mechanisms that are responsible for apparent microbial adaptation to certain biological conditions.

Winter Ecology
Ecosystem processes do not halt in winter. Actually, winter is a season rich in belowground processes, and we start to understand that changes in winter conditions can impact the functioning of ecosystems during the growing season. My research group aims to understand how ecosystem, particularly peatlands, function in winter and how that affects carbon and nutrient cycling.

PhD/MPhil Supervision

Justine Marie Gay-des-Combes. Alternatives to slash-and-burn agriculture in Central Menabe, Madagascar. Swiss National Science Foundation, r4d program.

Research group

Ecology and Evolution

Affiliate research group

Plants and Food Security

Co-organiser of the Biological Sciences Seminar Series

Member of the NERC ‘Enhancing Resilience of UK Peatlands’ Scoping Group

Board-member Dutch Foundation for the Conservation of Irish Bogs

Blog Editor of Functional Ecology

Member of the International Peat Society Climate Change Expert Group

Reviewed for 34 peer-reviewed academic journals (e.g. Nat. Commun., Glob. Chang. Biol., New Phytol., J. Ecol., J. Appl. Ecol., Funct. Ecol.)

Reviewed for funding organizations (British Ecological Society, BARD – The US–Israel Agricultural Research & Development Fund, Estonian Research Council, German Academic Exchange Service, National Research Network for Low Carbon Energy and the Environment, Royal Geographical Society)

Co-convener academic symposia (Rhizosphere 4, Netherlands Annual Ecology Meeting, 1st International symposium on Carbon in Peatlands, the Joint Annual Meeting being organised by the British Ecological Society (BES), NecoV and Gesellschaft für Ökologie (GfÖ))

External examiner PhD theses (University of Eastern, Finland; Masaryk University, Czech Republic)

Sort via:TypeorYear



BIOL1001 Experimental and Field Biology
BIOL1020 Core Skills in the Life Sciences
BIOL2008 Quantitative Methods in Biological and Environmental Science
BIOL2041 New Forest Field course
BIOL3068 Fluxes, Cycles, and Microbial Communities
BIOL6069 Advanced Field Research Project

I am a board-member of the Dutch Foundation for the Conservation of Irish Bogs. We provide small study grants focussed on peatland conservation.

Dr Bjorn Robroek
School of Biological Sciences
Faculty of Environmental and Life Sciences
Life Sciences Building 85
University of Southampton
Highfield Campus
SO17 1BJ

Room Number: 85/Level 6

Dr Bjorn Robroek's personal home page
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