ERC Starting Grant for research on natural regeneration

Published on
September 7, 2023

The European Research Council (ERC) has announced the awarding of 400 Starting Grants to young scientists and scholars across Europe. One of them is Madelon Lohbeck, forest ecologist at Wageningen University & Research. She received an ERC Grant for her research on natural generation in Africa: “With my research I aim to better understand how natural regeneration can contribute to land restoration.”

For over a century, ecologists have been conducting research on natural regeneration. They call this secondary succession. Typically, these fields are shielded from human influences for research purposes. This helps to better understand how forests regrow on abandoned agricultural land. However, in reality, agricultural land is rarely abandoned. Farmers utilize naturally regenerated trees and shrubs, influence species composition, and allow livestock to graze.

More targeted application

With her ERC project, Madelon Lohbeck will investigate how farmers in Kenya actively utilize natural regeneration in agricultural fields, for example, in combination with maize production. Lohbeck: “I study natural regeneration on abandoned farmland as well as on actively used agricultural fields. By systematically comparing both, I am unraveling under which social and ecological conditions natural regeneration can contribute to the restoration of essential functions, including soil fertility, provisioning of food, wood, soil and water conservation. Ultimately, I aim to better assess the potential and limitations of natural regeneration for land restoration. This will contribute to a more targeted application of this promising method.”

The ERC Starting Grants - totalling €628 million - support cutting-edge research in a wide range of fields, from medicine and physics to social sciences and humanities. They will help researchers at the beginning of their careers to launch their own projects, form their teams and pursue their best ideas. This funding, part of the EU’s Horizon Europe programme, will be invested in scientific projects spanning all disciplines of research.

About the ERC

The ERC, set up by the European Union in 2007, is the premier European funding organisation for excellent frontier research. It funds creative researchers of any nationality and age, to run projects based across Europe. The ERC offers four core grant schemes: Starting Grants, Consolidator Grants, Advanced Grants and Synergy Grants. With its additional Proof of Concept Grant scheme, the ERC helps grantees to bridge the gap between their pioneering research and early phases of its commercialisation.

The ERC is led by an independent governing body, the Scientific Council. Since November 2021, Maria Leptin is the President of the ERC. The overall ERC budget from 2021 to 2027 is more than €16 billion, as part of the Horizon Europe programme, currently under the responsibility of European Commission Executive Vice President Margarete Vestager.