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Prof. Dr. J.H.C. (Hans) Cornelissen

  • Telephone:+31 20 59 86962
  • Room nr:a-162
  • E-mail:j.h.c.cornelissen@vu.nl
  • Unit:faculteit der aard- en levenswetenschappen ( subafdeling systeemecologie )

Hello, I am Hans and this is the question that keeps me awake at night:

How do different plant species, with their different functional traits, control carbon cycling processes (e.g. decomposition, fire, productivity); and how does this help us to understand the consequences of global changes through shifts in vegetation composition?

Research projects

TRAITS AND FIRE Experimental research on the flammability of different plant species in tundra, heathland and forest ecosystems. In FLARE (Fire Laboratory Amsterdam for Research in Ecology), we do comparative controlled burns involving parts of different species of vascular plants, mosses and lichens. This work links to climate in the present, future and past.
With Richard van Logtestijn, Weiwei Zhao, Luke Blauw, Will Cornwell, Rien Aerts, Nadia Soudzilovskaia, Saskia Grootemaat and others .

Harvest yr1 - half log put back for animal harvest TRAITS AND DECOMPOSITION  Litterbed incubation experiments linking the traits of multiple plant species in ecosystems to the decomposition rate of their dead parts (litter) in different biomes of the world. We compare the ‘decomposabilities’ of leaves, roots, coarse wood and twigs of different species. A rather new extension is the ‘tree cemetery’ experiment LOG LIFE (Cornelissen et al. 2012 Ambio ), which hosts big decaying logs and branches of 20 temperate tree species.

With many partners all over the world including the LOGLIFE TEAM .

THE TREE OF LIFE OF CARBON CYCLING  Can we reconstruct the influence of vegetation composition on carbon cycling in the past based on trait information of today’s plant species? This work involves screening many species, from different evolutionary branches of the Tree of Life, for decomposability and flammability (see above and Cornelissen & Cornwell 2014 Journal of Ecology ). It also involves new experimental work on plant trait responses to low CO 2 -concentrations of the past.

With Will Cornwell, Guofang Liu, Sandra Diaz, Amy Zanne, Ming Dong, Kunfang Cao, and others.

CHINA  With colleagues at several research institutions in China, for instance the Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences (IB-CAS), and other institutions in Beijing, SW University in Chongqing, Hangzhou Normal University and Guangxi University in Nanning I enjoy fruitful collaborations on linking plant traits and carbon and nutrient cycling and environmental change in contrasting Chinese ecosystems. These collaborations include research in wetlands, forests sand alpine sits. We also investigate the role of plant traits in reducing soil erosion in dry ecosystems in N China and Mongolia.

With Ming Dong, Jianping Tao, Bo Zeng, Kunfang Cao, Zhenying Huang, Feihai Yu, Guofang Liu, Xuehua Ye, Xu Pan, Duo Ye, Xuejun Yang, Minghua Song, and their staff and students.

hans c snow roots picture    bamboo and carbon cycling


ANIMAL TRAITS VERSUS PLANT TRAITS  We link trait variation in invertebrate animals to variation in plant traits to learn about effects of animal-plant interactions on carbon and nutrient cycling. This work involves experimental mesocosm studies and field experiments in the Netherlands, Brazil and the Arctic involving different species of vascular plant litter, mosses and soil invertebrates. We study how some of the plant-animal-soil interactions depend on soil moisture. LOGLIFE (see above) is also a test bed for questions about linking animal and plant traits.

With Matty Berg, Astra Ooms, Juan Zuo, Eva Krab, André Dias, Saori Fujii, Akira Mori, Jurgen van Hal, and others .

TRAIT DATABASES  International data syntheses related to plant traits, soil processes, ecosystem services and climate. We assemble large-scale databases and apply them to global questions. Examples are the ARTDECO project, linking traits and decomposition worldwide and the TRY project, which now maintains the largest plant trait database in the world and actively supports large-scale modelling projects. With Nadia Soudzilovskaia I am also building a database on cryptogam traits, with a strong focus on ecosystem impact traits of bryophytes and lichens.

With many partners all over the world .

THE WARMING TUNDRA  How do tundra plant species and carbon and nutrient cycles respond to climatic warming? We run our in-situ global change experiment in a sub-arctic peat bog in N-Sweden. This experiment (since 2000) is unique in its factorial combination of treatments including spring and summer warming and winter snow regimes. It contributes to the International Tundra Experiment (ITEX) network and to circumarctic ecological upscaling analyses.

With Rien Aerts, Richard van Logtestijn, Ellen Dorrepaal and several ‘arctic partners’

NUTRIENT UPTAKE STRATEGIES  With partners at Moscow University and Leiden University, we work together in the Caucasus mountains and N Sweden, linking variation in plant traits among species to soil processes in cold biomes. The project has a strong focus on nutrient uptake strategies like N fixing and mycorrhizal symbioses of different plant species, at local, regional and global scale. Check out our large-scale mycorrhizal infection database (Akhmetzhanova et al. 2012 Ecology 93: 689) and our exciting discovery - snow roots growing up into snow packs to scavenge for nitrogen (Onipchenko et al. 2009 Ecology Letters)!

With Vladimir Onipchenko, Nadia Soudzilovskaia, Mikhail Makarov, Tanya Elumeeva, Peter van Bodegom, and others


Link to publication list Hans Cornelissen at VU University
Google Scholar Citations

Selected Publications:

Diaz, S., J. Katge, J.H.C. Cornelissen et al. 2016. The global spectrum of plant form and function. Nature 529: 167-U73.

Liu, G.F., W.K. Cornwell, K.F. Cao,Y.K. Hu, R.S.P. Van Logtestijn, S.J. Yang, X.F. Xie, Y.L. Zhang, D. Ye, X. Pan, X.H. Ye, Z.Y. Huang, M. Dong & J.H.C. Cornelissen 2015. Termites amplify effects of wood traits on decomposition rates among multiple bamboo and dicot woody species. Journal of Ecology 103: 1214-1223.

Blauw L.G., N. Wensink, L. Bakker, R.S.P. van Logtestijn, R. Aerts, N.A. Soudzilovskaia & J.H.C. Cornelissen 2015. Fuel moisture content enhances nonadditive effects of plant mixtures on flammability and fire behavior. Ecology and Evolution 5: 3830-3841.

Cornelissen, J.H.C. & W.K. Cornwell 2014. The Tree of Life in ecosystems: evolution of plant effects on carbon and nutrient cycling. Journal of Ecology 102: 269-274.

Pérez-Harguindeguy N., S. Díaz, E. Garnier, S. Lavorel, H. Poorter, P. Jaureguiberry, M.S. Bret-Harte, W.K. Cornwell, J.M. Craine, D.E. Gurvich, C. Urcelay, E.J. Veneklaas, P.B. Reich, L. Poorter, I.J. Wright, P. Ray, L. Enrico, J.G. Pausas, A.C. de Vos, N. Buchmann, G. Funes, F. Quétier, J.G. Hodgson, K. Thompson, H.D. Morgan, H. ter Steege, M.G.A. van der Heijden, L. Sack, B. Blonder, P. Poschlod, M.V. Vaieretti, G. Conti, A.C. Staver, S. Aquino & J.H.C. Cornelissen 2013. New handbook for standardised measurement of plant functional traits worldwide. Australian Journal of Botany 61: 167-234.


Ancillary activities

South west China University

Chongqing, China
Visiting professor: teaching, research advice
07 november 2013
Last changes Ancillary activities: Amsterdam 27 januari 2017
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