prof. dr. M.B. (Merel) Soons
Gegenereerd op 2018-09-20 07:51:21


Professor in Plant dispersal ecology & conservation

  • Guest researcher in Movement Ecology, Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW)
  • NWO-Aspasia laureate
  • NWO-VIDI laureate
  • NWO MEERVOUD laureate


Research group Ecology & Biodiversity


Research interests

My main research interests lie in the field of spatial ecology: the mechanisms of dispersal, colonization and migration of plants and animals, the interactions of these processes with ongoing global change (mainly habitat fragmentation and climate change), and their consequences for biodiversity patterns. In my research I investigate spatial ecological processes at the ecosystem to landscape scale, using a combination of field data collection, experiments and modeling approaches. In my dispersal research I use a movement ecology framework to investigate both plant and animal movement. I combine work on the building of fundamental ecological theory with the application of ecological knowledge in nature conservation and restoration. I consider this combination interesting, challenging, and important, as I believe the combination of fundamental science and its application to key environmental problems is what society needs from the scientific community. Most of my research is on wetlands and the ecology of freshwater ecosystems, which are globally threatened but of great natural and societal importance.


My team


  • Dr. M. (Monique) de Jager

PhD students

  • A.G. (Annemarie) Garssen
  • J.P. (Juan Pablo) Mora
  • R. (Robert) Timmers

Former team members

  • Dr. R.G.A. (Rob) Fraaije
  • Dr. E. (Erik) Kleyheeg
  • Dr. J.M. (Judith) Sarneel
  • Dr. H.J. (Jelle) Treep
  • Dr. C.H.A. (Casper) van Leeuwen
  • Dr. J.P. (Jeroen) van Zuidam
Involved in the following study programme(s)
Scientific expertise
biodiversity regulation
biodiversity restoration
nature conservation and restoration
spatial ecology
community assembly
global change
wetland ecology
seed dispersal
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Peer-reviewed publications in Dutch




Contributions to books


PhD thesis


Supervised PhD theses


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Gegenereerd op 2018-09-20 07:51:21

My research focusses on four broad questions, addressing these in various research projects:

  1. How do plants (and animals) move through landscapes?
  2. How do these movements contribute to community assembly and biodiversity?
  3. How are these movements affected by human-induced changes in landscapes (habitat fragmentation, land use change, climate change, conservation and restoration activities)?
  4. How can we optimize biodiversity conservation and restoration measures?   


Current projects

  • Flying, floating or hitching a ride: The dispersal of plants in heterogeneous landscapes (funded by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO); personal VIDI and Aspasia grants), includes research of PhD students Erik Kleyheeg & Jelle Treep and postdoc Monique de Jager
  • Plants on the move: The role of seed dispersal in the creation of spatial patterns and biodiversity (funded by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO); personal MEERVOUD grant) 
  • Spatial patterns of seed dispersal of Patagonian grasses (funded by CONICET, Argentina; personal grant to Gustavo Pazos), collaboration with Gustavo Pazos 
  • Smart Landscapes (funded by graduate school PE&RC; project grant to Arnaud Temme, Lammert Kooistra, Ryan Teuling, George van Voorn (WUR) & Merel Soons (UU) to develop guidelines for landscapes where vegetation and land cover patterns increase resilience to sudden shifts and/or promote desired shifts), includes research of postdoc Ype van der Velde
  • Long-term vegetation and biodiversity developments in wetland area De Biesbosch (a collaboration with Staatsbosbeheer for fundamental and applied research)
01.06.2017 to 12.12.2030
General project description 

Ecosystems of the future

Two of the most pressing issues facing our environment are climate change and biodiversity loss. Human activities are resulting in a sharp decline in biodiversity, while at the same time, climate change is impacting the world's ecosystems. It has long been assumed that biodiversity can help ecosystems be more resistant to climate change, but if and how this occurs remains unknown. UU BioCliVE mimics ecosystems of the future, thereby allowing us to understand the mechanisms by which biodiversity helps to buffer ecosystems against potential harmful effects of climate change. Such knowledge will be critical as we develop management plans for the future that help to maintain biodiversity and preserve ecosystem functioning.

Role Researcher Funding
Utrecht University
Project members UU
External project members:
  • Open for collaborations

Gegenereerd op 2018-09-20 07:51:22



BSc level

Bachelor programma Biologie

  • Tweedejaars-cursus Natuurbehoud, duurzaamheid en plantendiversiteit (NDP)
  • Derdejaars-cursus Biodiversiteit en landschap (BioLand)
  • Derdejaars-cursus Scriptie/Onderzoeksproject


MSc level

Master programme Environmental Biology

MSc student research projects

  • Biodiversity research: community assembly
  • Plant movement ecology: seed dispersal by wind, water and water birds
  • Landscape ecology: habitat fragmentation, connectivity
  • Restoration ecology: wetland restoration, optimization of restoration in the landscape
  • Wetlands and global change
  • Long-term vegetation and biodiversity developments in wetland area De Biesbosch


PhD level

PE&RC course Spatial Ecology


Graduate schools

Member of Utrecht University's graduate school Life Sciences

Member of the national graduate school Production Ecology and Resource Conservation (PE&RC)

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Additional functions and activities

Guest researcher in Movement Ecology at the Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW), department of Animal Ecology

Board member of International Union for Conservation of Nature - National Committee of The Netherlands (IUCN NL)

Board member of Centre for Wetland Ecology (CWE)

Chair of the organization committee of the Netherlands Annual Ecology Meeting (NAEM)

Gegenereerd op 2018-09-20 07:51:22
Full name
prof. dr. M.B. Soons Contact details
Hugo R. Kruytgebouw

Padualaan 8
Room N303
The Netherlands

Phone number (direct) +31 30 253 6837
Phone number (department) +31 30 253 6700
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Gegenereerd op 2018-09-20 07:51:22
Last updated 29.08.2018