Prof. dr. ir. Max Rietkerk

Spatial Ecology and Global Change
030 253 2500

Full professor Spatial Ecology and Global Change, Head Environmental Sciences at Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development at Utrecht University, The Netherlands.


Key words: Ecological Complexity, Global Change, Spatial Ecology, Self-organization, Resilience, Tipping points, Critical transitions, Early-warning signals, Catastrophic shifts, Spatial pattern formation, Vegetation patterns, Ecosystems, Feedbacks, Plant-soil feedbacks, Biodiversity, Climate-vegetation feedbacks, Fire, Grazing systems, Bistability, Multistability, Multiscale.


My research and teaching is about Ecology, Environmental Sciences, and current topics on Global Change and Ecosystems. My research concentrates on Spatial Ecology and Global Change. 


Ecosystems self-organize into spatial patterns, demonstrating a characteristic of complex systems and resilience. In complex systems, structures at larger scales emerge spontaneously from processes operating at smaller scales. Understanding and modelling these processes enables us to interpret such signals of spatial self-organization in terms of ecosystem’s resilience, tipping points, and its likelihood of critical transitions toward alternate assemblages, guided by new rules and different processes. Also, our research shows that processes and feedbacks at disparate locations and spatial scales are linked, implying feedbacks between ecosystems, earth systems and the (global) climate. This is important in the light of global change, because human survival depends on ecosystem services.


My research has been published in more than 100 articles in international refereed scientific journals, including top journals such as Nature and Science.


Milieuwetenschappen; Ruimtelijke ecologie; Global change