prof.dr. F (Frank) Berendse

prof.dr. F (Frank) Berendse

emeritus professor

Scientific and social services  (past) :

  • Member Scientific Committee and Steering Core Group of the European Science Foundation programme LINKECOL (Linking Community and Ecosystem Ecology)
  • Member Scientific Committee of the SCOPE-project Nitrogen fluxes
  • Member Committee of the Year on Ecology and Evolution (2005-2006) of the US Mathematical Biosciences Institute
  • Board member of the European Ecological Federation.
  • National contact person for the Society for Conservation Biology
  • Member Scientific Council of the European Centre for Nature Conservation (ECNC)
  • Editor scientific journals: Oecologia; Ecosystems; en Perspectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution and Systematics 
  • Chairman NWO evaluation committee grants Ecology, evolution and biodiversity
  • Member NWO evaluation committee ALW-Top-grants
  • Member Programme Committee NWO Programme Biodiversity
  • Member Scientific Board Darwin Centre (NWO)
  • Member Council for Research of the Environment (RMNO)
  • Board member Natuurmonumenten
  • Chairman board committee management, Natuurmonumenten
  • Vice-chairman Foundation for Field Ornithology (SOVON)


Scientific and social services after 2013

  • Chairman Heimans en Thijsse Foundation
  • Board member and founder Foundation Namens de natuur
  • Member Committee Van Ardenne (advised government about the new nature conservation policy)
  • External advisor  Nature Conservation Act (Initiatiefnota Mooi Nederland, PvdA, D66, GL)
  • Associated member Council for the Environment and Infrastructure
  • Member evaluation panel Duurzame Top 100, Trouw
  • Member Committee European Academies of Science advising the European Committee about neonicotionoids
  • National Contact Person for the Society of Conservation Biology
  • Member Sientific Advisory Council Data Authority Nature 
  • Member Advisory Board Foundation Probos
  • Chairman NWO evaluation committee grant applications
  • Member Panel Groenste Politicus 2016

The research of Frank Berendse focusses on the long-term dynamics of natural ecosystems. He is fascinated by the question why the species composition of some plant communities seems to be strongly stabilized, while other communities can change rapidly after a slight change in environmental conditions. In his vision plant-plant and plant-soil interactions are key to the understanding of these phenomena. He developed a mathematical theory for plant competition in non-uniform environments that explains how plant species can coexist in stochastically fluctuating environments. His concept of the relative nutrient requirement of plants enabled us to determine at what level of nutrient supply a given plant species will be replaced by another species. This approach allowed - amongst others - the calculation of critical nitrogen loads which provided a firm basis for environmental policy in Western Europe.

More recently, Berendse studied the impacts of biodiversity loss on crucial ecosystem services. We showed that biodiversity loss does not only lead to lower productivity, but also to reduced erosion resistance of sloping grasslands, amongst others on embankements that protect densely populated areas against flooding.

Berendse's earlier studies on the feedbacks between plant and soil were expanded to the interaction between the expansion of Betula nana  and thawing of the permafrost in arctic Siberia. The dwarf birches were found to have important negative impacts on the warming of the soil during early summer. Removal of birches resulted in accelerated thawing and the development of ponds with strongly increased methane emissions.

Ity is exciting to investigate beautiful ecosystems such as Nort-European bogs or Arctic tundra, but the most important part of Europe consists of farmland. In these agricultural landscapes biodiversity has declined dramatically during the last decades. The European Commission attempts to develop new agricultural policy to halt this decine and to restore biodiversity. We showed that earlier measures were not really effective, since the key factors were not addressed. Later we showed that these key factors are: the groundwater level in meadow areas and the use of pesticides in landscapes with arable fields. The next question is how we can develop a new sustainable agriculture that can coexist with the wild plant and animal species that live on farmland. 


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