Prof. dr Rik Leemans currently heads the Environmental Systems Analysis group of Wageningen University. He implements research projects world-wide and actively involves young scientists from developing countries in his projects. He has proven capabilities to stimulate and manage individual researchers, research groups and (inter)national programmes and assessments towards excellence.
During the nineties (1992-2003) he was a senior scientist of the National Institute of Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) in Bilthoven. Here, he directed the development of integrated modelling approaches for the biosphere within the IMAGE 2 model, contributed to the different international science assessments of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and UNEP’s Global Environmental Outlook and co-chaired the Responses Working Group of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA). From 2006 through 2012, he successfully chaired the Earth System Science Partnership of ICSU’s international global change programmes and on their behalf presented an annual scientific update to plenary of the UNFCCC. Since 2011, he actively helped to shape the international sustainability program ‘Future Earth’.
His early studies at Uppsala University (Sweden) emphasized the successional dynamics and structure of boreal forests. His subsequent research position at the Biosphere Project of the International Institute of Applied System Analyses (IIASA, Austria) focused on boreal forest models. Since then his research has excelled into modelling global land-cover patterns and land-use change and using these models in state-of-the-art integrated assessments. His main research interests concern biodiversity, vegetation structure and dynamics, land-use and cover change, biogeochemical cycles, ecosystem services, human well-being and sustainability. Over the last decade he has become one of the world leaders in developing and integrating innovative natural and social science knowledge to tackle major policy-relevant Earth System questions with inter- and transdisciplinary approaches.
Prof. dr Leemans has published many papers on a wide range of topics. These include forest dynamics, large-scale vegetation and crop distribution, global environmental databases, terrestrial C cycle and the importance of feedback processes, the incorporation of land-use change and other human dimensions into Earth system models, biodiversity, integrated assessment tools and, more recently, potential mitigation and adaptation options and strategies for environmental change. He is a member of several editorial boards and editor-in-chief of the international journal Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability (Elsevier).