Lourens Poorter wins ECR grant for boost cutting-edge research

Published on
April 2, 2019

Three top researchers John van der Oost, Lourens Poorter and Dolf Weijers have won an Advanced Grant of the European Research Council (ERC). The grants, 2.5 million euros each, enable the Wageningen researchers to explore new ideas in their research area: proteins, tropical forests, and the plant compass.

PANTROP - Biodiversity and recovery of forest in tropical landscapes

Tropical forests are global hotspots of biodiversity, play key roles in the global carbon and water cycle and deliver crucial ecosystem services but are threatened by human-induced climate change, deforestation and biodiversity loss.

In his ERC research PANTROP, Lourens Poorter and his team focus on forests that regrow after complete forest removal for agriculture (so called secondary forests), because they cover large areas, have great potential to recover biodiversity and carbon, and are the basis for ecosystem restoration. The key challenge is to understand and predict forest resilience: when, and under what conditions are regrowing forests able to recover and have the same quality and functioning as old-growth forests?

This study aims to understand and predict the resilience of tropical forests to human-driven disturbance by analysing the effects of continent and biogeography, climate, landscape, and biodiversity on forest recovery rate. The researchers will conduct controlled experiments on three continents (Neotropics, Africa, and Australia) in climatically dry and wet forest types to assess long-term resilience by expanding a unique Neotropical network of 60 sites to the pantropics. The team also will analyse the role of the landscape on forest recovery by doing a natural experiment along forest cover gradients. And they try to understand how different kinds of diversity affect succession and ecosystem functioning through a biodiversity removal experiment.

The study addresses key questions in ecology and advances the understanding how human-driven climate change, landscape degradation, and biodiversity loss affect forest resilience and succession. The insights can be applied to reduce human impacts on tropical forests, design resilient and multifunctional tropical landscapes, and design effective forest restoration strategies.


The European Research Council, set up by the European Union in 2007, invested €540 million to boost cutting-edge research. 222 scientists won the European Research Council’s Advanced Grants , out of more than two thousand research proposals.

The European funding organisation is meant for excellent frontier research. Every year, it selects and funds the very best, creative researchers of any nationality and age, to run projects based in Europe. To date, the ERC has funded some 9,000 top researchers at various stages of their careers, and over 50,000 postdocs, PhD students and other staff working in their research teams.