MJ (Martine) van der Ploeg MJ (Martine) van der Ploeg

Professor/Chairholder Hydrology and Environmental Hydraulics

The purpose of my research is to unravel biophysical landscape processes and connect these with landscape ecosystem functions through collaboration with different scientific disciplines to enable better use and protection of soil and water resources. Over the past years my research has developed along three research lines.

1. Soil and vegetation heterogeneity

The most important aspect I recognize in my work on biophysical landscape interactions for connecting climate change, population growth and soil threats is the heterogeneity of occurring processes and how these work out at different scales. Vegetation plays an essential role in the landscape, as it regulates the water flux to the atmosphere through evapotranspiration, while it is dependent on adequate water supply. Vegetation shapes the land surface by changing infiltration characteristics as a result of root growth, and controls soil moisture supply, which in turn affect runoff characteristics and groundwater recharge. Vegetation and the underlying geology are in constant interaction, wherein water plays a key role.

2. Measurement techniques to detect emerging properties in biophysical landscape interactions.

This research line is tightly linked to the previous one. New techniques, such as radar interferometry and other remote sensing products facilitate non-interfering observation of biophysical interactions on landscape scale. Therefore, such techniques allow to assess the result of micro-behavior on larger scales, and may help to assess which interactions are important to include in models. 

3. Role of heterogeneous landscape interactions on landscape ecosystem functions

This research line is a logical connection with the other two, although this is also the research line where I am able to add my expertise on biophysical interactions in joint projects. I am collaborating in several projects to investigate the fate of nanosilver, microplastics and several pesticides. In these projects my expertise on soil heterogeneity, and innovative experimental setups is highly valuable. In 2016 I was involved in a project comparing slash/burn practices in the tropical mountainous cloud forests of Colombia, especially the impact on soil properties . I participate in a project that investigates how to better integrate soil ecosystem functions and urban planning of Metropolitan areas. Another link with ecosystem services is through the International Soil Modelling Consortium (ISMC).