Dr. Martijn Bezemer


Contact information

T: +31 317 473 607


  • aboveground belowground interactions
  • biodiversity
  • ecosystem functions
  • community ecology

Visiting address

Droevendaalsesteeg 10
6708 PB Wageningen
T +31-317-473400
The Netherlands

Postal address

P.O. Box 50
6700 AB Wageningen
The Netherlands



  • 1989-1994: Crop Protection, Ecology and Epidemiology. Wageningen University, The Netherlands
  • 1996-1999: PhD (Part time). Plants, herbivores and parasitoids in global environmental change. Imperial College, London, United Kingdom



  • 1995-1999: Research Officer of the Ecotron Team, Centre for Population Biology, Imperial College at Silwood Park, United Kingdom.
  • 1999: Post-doctoral Fellow, ICIPE, Nariobi, Kenya
  • 1999-2000: Post-doctoral Fellow, Insect Biology, University of California, Berkeley, USA.
  • 2000-2004: Post-doctoral Fellow, Netherlands Institute of Ecology, Heteren.
  • 2004-2005: Assistant Professor (UD) Systems Ecology, Nature Conservation and Plant Ecology Group. Wageningen University.
  • 2005-2008: Research Fellow, Laboratory of Nematology & Laboratory of Entomology, Wageningen University.
  • 2008-2010: Research Fellow, Netherlands Institute of Ecology, Heteren & Laboratory of Nematology, Wageningen University.
  • From 2010: Senior Scientist, Netherlands Institute of Ecology, Heteren.


Prices, awards and grants:

  • 2004: Personal fellowship (Top-Postdoc) award Graduate School Production Ecology and Resource Conservation (PE&RC) (+ 1 PhD).
  • 2006: Co-author of paper by Soler et al. receiving Charles Elton award from the Journal of Animal Ecology
  • 2007: BSIK Climate for Space programme (with consortium): 1PhD
  • 2007: Personal fellowship (VIDI) award Dutch Research Council (NWO-ALW)
  • 2008: NIOO Innovative research grant (With consortium): 1 Postdoc
  • 2008: Co-author of paper by Engelkes et al. receiving National Ecological Research Network best annual paper award
  • 2010: Talents and Topics grant Graduate School PE&RC (With consortium from Wageningen University): 2 Post-docs
  • 2011: Soil heterogeneity as a key to restore biodiversity (Biodiversity Works programme, NWO-ALW): 1PhD
  • 2013: Final author of paper by Kostenko et al. receiving National Ecological Research Network best annual paper award
  • 2014: Visiting Professorship, Institute of Applied Ecology, CAS, Shenyang, China.


Involvement in scientific publications such as editorships:


  • Editorial board of Agricultural and Forest Entomology (2005-2012)
  • Editorial board of  Insect Conservation and Diversity (from 2007)
  • Editorial board of Web Ecology (from 2011)
  • Editorial board of PeerJ (from 2012)
  • Referee of over 50 journals in the field of ecology, soil biology, entomology, and biological control
  • Member of Evaluation panel of NWO Veni proposals (2012-2014)
  • Member of Evaluation panel of proposals of the Finish Academy of Sciences (from 2013)
  • Member of the Expert Assessment Panel for peer review of Institute of Applied Ecology, CAS, Shenyang, China (2013)
  • Reviewer of research proposals (Among others: NWO, NSF USA, NERC UK, DFG Germany, Austrian Science board, Swiss Science council)


Brief history:

  • My fascination with science is derived from the beauty and complexity of natural systems and the way species interact in these systems. In my work I aim to disentangle the complex interactions between species and individuals. How do organisms interact, and what are the consequences for the functioning of the ecosystem when these interactions are disturbed due to, for example, climate change, land use changes or loss of species. In the collaborative Ecotron project in the United Kingdom, I studied how changes in plant quality, as influenced by rises in global atmospheric temperature or CO2, influence aboveground and belowground insects. At UC Berkeley, USA, I focused on the interactions that occur between herbivores and their parasitoids. At the NIOO in Heteren, I initiated work on the role of belowground factors, such as root herbivory and soil community composition, in influencing aboveground plant-herbivore-parasitoid interactions. I also studied how plants influence soil organisms and how this feeds back to plant performance. Much of this work was initially carried out under controlled conditions such as in greenhouses and growth chambers. My next step was to study these interactions in natural systems in the field and to disentangle the mechanisms by which soil communities can influence aboveground insect and plant communities in the field within the context of nature restoration on former arable fields. The personal fellowship grant from the graduate school Production Ecology and Resource Conservation (PE&RC) enabled me to further focus on the effects of plant diversity and vegetation succession on aboveground and belowground communities and the interactions that occur within these communities, and ultimately how this affects ecosystem functions, invasions and stability. I also studied the composition and functioning of individual-plant soil food webs in a long-term biodiversity experiment, together with an international consortium of soil scientists. In my VIDI project I focus on the plant ragwort (Senecio jacobaea), a species that is native but problematic in the Netherlands and invasive in other continents, and address the question to what extent the composition and functioning of aboveground and belowground communities associated to individual ragwort plants is determined by the identity of the plant individual (e.g. nutritional quality) or by the identity of the plant community in which the plant individual is growing. I study how changes in plant diversity affect the above and belowground interactions that occur within these communities, but also use molecular tools to disentangle specificity of AMF-plant-nematode interactions.

International Activities (Invited and keynote only, since 2005)

  • Anniversary Symposium of the Graduate School PE&RC, 26 October 2005, Wageningen, Invited speaker.
  • XVII International Botanical Congress, Vienna, Austria, 17-23 July 2005. Invited speaker.
  • Multitrophic Interactions Workshop, 23-24 April 2006 Goettingen, Germany. Keynote Lecture.
  • IOBC Meeting, Breeding for Inducible resistance against pests and diseases. 27-29 April 2006, Heraklion Crete. Invited speaker
  • ESF VOCBAS meeting. Montpellier, 2-5 Oct. 2007. Invited speaker.
  • XXIII International Congress of Entomology, 6-12 July 2008, Durban, South Africa. Keynote Lecture at session.
  • British Ecological Society Annual Meeting, 3-5 September 2008, London, UK. Invited Speaker at Thematic topic.
  • International Forum on Ecosystem Adaptability. Robustness and stability of organisms and ecosystems, 21-24 February 2010, Sendai, Japan. Invited speaker.
  • GFO meeting Plant Population Biology: Crossing Borders, 13-15 May 2010, Nijmegen. Keynote lecture.
  • Annual meeting of the German Entomological Society, 21-24 March 2011, Berlin, Germany. Keynote Lecture.
  • SER2011 World Conference on Ecological Restoration, 21-25 August 2011, Merida, Mexico. Invited speaker.
  • 97th Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America, 5-10 August, 2012, Portland, USA. Invited speaker at symposium.
  • Plant soil feedback and intercropping workshop, CAU, Beijing, China. Invited Speaker.
  • Annual meeting of the Entomological Society of America, Austin, USA, 2013. Invited Speaker.



Biodiversity and Ecosystem function:

  • Biodiversity is declining worldwide but the consequences of this loss are still not well understood. We study how changes in plant diversity affect the functioning of grassland ecosystems and how this influences aboveground and belowground multitrophic communities. We study these interactions in two field experiments, a series of old fields, and under controlled conditions in climate chambers and greenhouses. With the NIOO project group biodiversity we examine the impact and consequences of herbivore diversity in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems (see project group webpage).

Long-term successional biodiversity experiment:

  • In the field different seed mixtures (15 species, 4 species, 0 species) were sown in a recently abandoned field in 1996. The plots have not been weeded since, but this single sowing event has resulted in long-term differences in plant and soil communities. Since 1996 we have been collecting data on plant and nematode community composition and we now have a unique long-term dataset on how initial seed diversity affects the temporal dynamics of plant and soil communities during secondary succession. We also study ecosystem functioning, invasibility and community and ecosystem stability in the plots. Since the plots are not weeded and colonization is allowed this is a unique biodiversity experiment and the results show that biodiversity-ecosystem function relationships in unweeded, natural plant communities differ remarkably from those observed in controlled biodiversity experiments (see publications for details).


The succesional biodiversity field site


 Annual harvest event


Classical biodiversity experiment:

  • In 2008 we initiated a classical biodiversity grassland experiment with 70 plots with 1 to 9 plant species and where species diversity and composition are maintained by hand weeding. Here we also study biodiversity – ecosystem function relationships and this enables us to compare it to the successional biodiversity experiment. In the classical biodiversity experiment, we focus particularly on how plant community identity and diversity affects the aboveground and belowground interactions that occur on phytometer plants (tansy ragwort: Senecio jacobaea) that have been planted into these plots, to test for associative resistance and susceptibility, and to test to what extent plant-antagonist interactions are driven by host plant quality and by the surrounding community.


Preparation of the field site with Olga (and Andre, not on the photo)

field site during early summer of 2010


Chronosequence of old fields:

  • We use a series of old fields that differ in time since cessation of agriculture (1 to 40 years) to study how plant, soil, and aboveground communities develop and how ecosystem stability changes over time during secondary succession. We study how nature restoration can be improved, but also study population dynamics of the plant tansy ragwort in this chronosequence. After an initial period of five to ten years during which this plant species dominates the vegatation, its abundance starts to declline. We examine whether this decline is due to a negative plant soil feedback that develops in these old fields or due to increased competition with other plant species or changes in soil chemical properties.

luis estela and joop

Luis, Estela and Joop collect soil and biomass samples at Reijerskamp (early successional site)

Dennekamp (later successional site)


 Aboveground belowground interactions:

  • Plants grow aboveground and in the soil, but ecologists frequently study aboveground or belowground processes in isolation. We are interested in question by which mechanisms belowground herbivores, pathogens or decomposers can influence the interactions between plants, herbivores and parasitoids aboveground, and vice versa. We introduce aboveground and belowground organisms on plants in microcosm studies in the greenhouse and study how these organisms interact via induced plant defense responses and whether feeding in one compartment can affect the behaviour of organisms in the other compartment. We also study these interactions in the field. For example, we study ature restoration on ex arable fields and how soil diversity can influence the diversity of plants and herbivores aboveground.


Studying aboveground belowground interactions


microcosm experiment with aboveground and belowground herbivores


Plant-soil feedback:

  • We study how plants via changes in soil abiotic or biotic properties can affect the performance of plants of the same or other species that subsequently grow in the same soil. This is called plant soil feedback. We examine how important plant soil feedback effects are in the field and how important the identity is of the plant individual that conditions the soil. We also study plant-soil feedback responses in plant communities and a lot of our plant soil feedback work is related to the biodiversity and chronosequence work described above.


A plant soil feed back study in the greenhouse


Effects of host plant quality and neighbouring plant community composition on aboveground and belowground food webs:

  • In the field, we study how resource quality and the identity of the neighbouring plant community affect above and belowground food webs on individual plants. Belowground, we construct entire foodwebs underneath individual plants belonging to different species (including Plantago lanceolata and Lotus corniculatus) that grow in the plots of the successional biodiversity epxeriment. Although the food webs are entirely open, and plants grow internmingled with other plants of the same and different species, we are detecting considerable differences in the composition of the soil food webs. Surprisingly, these differences occur in particular in the decomposer part of the foodweb rather than in the root associated organisms. Aboveground we have reared out all herbivores and parasitoids from seed pods of Lotus corniculatus. So far the food web consists of two herbivore species and 20 parasitoid and hyper parasitoid species. We analyze the food webs for complexity, stability, link density etc, and have data on the body size of the emerging adults. We also have detailed information about the size of the pods, the number of seeds, and the origin of the pods (from which plant community were they colleted and from which plant within the community). For these aboveground and belowground food webs we examine the hypothesis that aboveground food webs are influenced most stronly by resource quality while belowground food webs are determined most strongly by neighbouring and legacy effects.


Indidivual Lotus and Plantago plants cooccur in the same community but have entirely different soil food webs 


Ecology of the biobased economy: Biochar amendment in a natural ecosystem:

  • Together with colleagues from Wageningen University (Jan Willem van Groenigen and Liesje Mommer) and two appointed post docs (Tess van de Voorde and Simon Jeffery) recently started a four year project in which we examine possibilities for  biofuel production from biomass of old fields. We will study the effects of biochar amendment in a nature restoration area on plant communities and soil food webs and ecosystem functions. Biochar (similar properties as active coal), is a left over product from oil production after pyrolisation of biomass. We also organized two workshops on biofuels and biochar. More information on:



Selected publications

  • Bezemer TM, Harvey JA, Cronin JT (2014). Response of native insects to invasive plants. Annual Review of Entomology 59: 119-141.
  • Bezemer TM, Van der Putten WH, Martens H, Van de Voorde TFJ, Mulder PPJ, Kostenko O (2013) Above- and below-ground herbivory effects on below-ground plant-fungus interactions and plant-soil feedback responses. Journal of Ecology 101: 325-333.
  • Bezemer TM, Fountain MT, Barea JM, Christensen S, Dekker SC, Duyts H, van Hal, R, Harvey JA, Hedlund K, Maraun M, Mikola J, Mladenov AG, Robin C, de Ruiter PC, Scheu S, Setälä H Šmilauer P, van der Putten WH (2010) Divergent composition but similar function of soil food webs beneath individual plants: plant species and community effects. Ecology 91: 3027-3036.
  • Bezemer TM, Van der Putten WH (2007) Diversity and stability in plant communities. Nature 446: E6-E7.
  • Bezemer TM, Harvey JA, Kowalchuk GA, Korpershoek H, Van der Putten WH (2006) Interplay between Senecio jacobaea and plant, soil, and aboveground insect community composition. Ecology 87: 2002-2013.
  • Bezemer TM, Lawson CS, Hedlund K, Edwards AR, Brook AJ, Igual JM, Mortimer SR, Van der Putten WH (2006) Plant species and functional group effects on abiotic and microbial soil properties and plant-soil feedback responses in two grasslands. Journal of Ecology 94: 893-904.
  • Bezemer TM, Van Dam NM (2005) Linking aboveground and belowground interactions via induced plant defenses. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 20: 618-624.
  • Bezemer TM, De Deyn GB, Bossinga TM, Van Dam NM, Harvey JA, Van der Putten WH (2005) Soil community composition drives aboveground plant-herbivore-parasitoid interactions. Ecology Letters 8: 652-661.



See downloads at right hand upper corner of web page

  • Full publication list
  • Nature 446: E6-E7. Additional information on species abundances and experimental details


Suppl_Info_ Nature446-E6-E8.doc192 KB
publication list TM Bezemer.doc77.5 KB