NIOO-researcher Martijn Bezemer is one of this year's winners of a prestigious Dutch Vici-grant, for his 'Living Legacies' project on the impact of plant legacy effects in soil communities and their potential use for restoring degraded ecosystems.
Martijn was a Research Fellow at the department of Nematology from February 1, 2005 until March 1, 2010. During this period he obtained his VIDI grant.
1,5 million euro grants are offered by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research as an innovation incentive for senior researchers from all scientific disciplines. Altogether, 216 proposals were submitted this year, on topics ranging from prehistoric rituals to a 'robot suit' that helps people affected with paralysis.
Martijn was one of the 36 winners, for his proposal about the impact of plants on the soil they grow in. Changes to the soil community can last even after the plants growing in the soil have died, through their interaction with soil organisms.
Such plant-soil legacies can affect the composition of plant communities, and they can also change the aboveground chemistry of individual plants. In addition to plants, the insects that depend on them are affected as well.
Martijn believes that these 'legacy effects' can be put to good practical use. "I propose that they're important for the structure of natural ecosystems, determine its aboveground biodiversity and can even be used to restore degraded ecosystems."
The project will first of all examine when, how, and at what temporal and spatial scales plant-soil legacy effects influence aboveground plant-insect interactions. This will be tested by reciprocal soil and plant transplantations in natural grasslands.
Over the next five years, Martijn's Vici-grant should result in a 'general framework' that predicts the impact of soil-legacy effects. This framework will be used to manage soil legacies, with the ultimate aim of restoring biodiversity in degraded grassland ecosystems.