Amber Heijboer

Dr. Amber Heijboer

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Visiting Address

Droevendaalsesteeg 10
6708 PB Wageningen

+31 (0) 317 47 34 00

The Netherlands



I am Science Officer at the Netherlands Institute of Ecology. In this role I support and advise the NIOO management regarding research strategy.


Amber Heijboer (1989) is trained as biologist at Utrecht University and obtained her PhD in soil microbial ecology from Wageningen University in 2018. Already during her PhD she was interested in science policy and joined PhD councils on both local and national level. After her PhD she started working as Science Officer at the Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED) at the University of Amsterdam. Since 2022 she works as Science Officer at the Netherlands Institute for Ecology (NIOO-KNAW). 



  • Present
    Science Officer | Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW)
  • 2017–2022
    Science Officer | Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics | University of Amsterdam
  • 2017–2021
    PhD Programme Coordinator | Graduate School PE&RC
  • 2012–2017
    PhD Soil Microbial Ecology | Wageningen University (in collaboration with Utrecht University, NIOO-KNAW and Wageningen Research)


  • 2010–2012
    Master Environmental Biology | Utrecht University
  • 2007–2010
    Bachelor Biology | Utrecht University
  • 2007–2001
    VWO | Scholengroep Cambium, Zaltbommel


Peer-reviewed publications

  • Earth System Science Data

    The biogeography of relative abundance of soil fungi versus bacteria in surface topsoil

    Kailiang Yu, Johan van den Hoogen, Zhikang Wang, C. Averill, D. Routh, Robert G Smith, R. E. Drenovsky, K. M. Scow, F. Mo, M. P. Waldrop, Yuanhe Yang, Wen Tang, Franciska T. De Vries, Richard D. Bardgett, P. Manning, F. Bastida, S. G. Baer, Elizabeth M. Bach, Carlos González-García, Qingkui Wang, L. Ma, Baodong Chen, X. He, Sven Teurlincx, Amber Heijboer, J. A. Bradley, Tom Crowther
    Fungi and bacteria are the two dominant groups of soil microbial communities worldwide. By controlling the turnover of soil organic matter, these organisms directly regulate the cycling of carbon between the soil and the atmosphere. Fundamental differences in the physiology and life history of bacteria and fungi suggest that variation in the biogeography of relative abundance of soil fungi versus bacteria could drive striking differences in carbon decomposition and soil organic matter formation between different biomes. However, a lack of global and predictive information on the distribution of these organisms in terrestrial ecosystems has prevented the inclusion of relative abundance of soil fungi versus bacteria and the associated processes in global biogeochemical models. Here, we used a global-scale dataset of > 3000 distinct observations of abundance of soil fungi versus bacteria in the surface topsoil (up to 15 cm) to generate the first quantitative and high-spatialresolution (1 km(2)) explicit map of soil fungal proportion, defined as fungi/fungi + bacteria, across terrestrial ecosystems. We reveal striking latitudinal trends where fungal dominance increases in cold and high-latitude environments with large soil carbon stocks. There was a strong nonlinear response of fungal dominance to the environmental gradient, i.e., mean annual temperature (MAT) and net primary productivity (NPP). Fungi dominated in regions with low MAT and NPP and bacteria dominated in regions with high MAT and NPP, thus representing slow vs. fast soil energy channels, respectively, a concept with a long history in soil ecology. These high-resolution models provide the first steps towards representing the major soil microbial groups and their functional differences in global biogeochemical models to improve predictions of soil organic matter turnover under current and future climate scenarios. Raw datasets and global maps generated in this study are available at (Yu, 2022).
  • Frontiers in Microbiology

    Modulation of litter decomposition by the soil microbial food web under influence of land use change

    Amber Heijboer, P.C. de Ruiter, Paul Bodelier, George Kowalchuk
    Soil microbial communities modulate soil organic matter (SOM) dynamics by catalyzing litter decomposition. However, our understanding of how litter-derived carbon (C) flows through the microbial portion of the soil food web is far from comprehensive. This information is necessary to facilitate reliable predictions of soil C cycling and sequestration in response to a changing environment such as land use change in the form of agricultural abandonment. To examine the flow of litter-derived C through the soil microbial food web and it’s response to land use change, we carried out an incubation experiment with soils from six fields; three recently abandoned and three long term abandoned fields. In these soils, the fate of 13C-labeled plant litter was followed by analyzing phospholipid fatty acids (PLFA) over a period of 56 days. The litter-amended soils were sampled over time to measure 13CO2 and mineral N dynamics. Microbial 13C-incorporation patterns revealed a clear succession of microbial groups during litter decomposition. Fungi were first to incorporate 13C-label, followed by G- bacteria, G+ bacteria, actinomycetes and micro-fauna. The order in which various microbial groups responded to litter decomposition was similar across all the fields examined, with no clear distinction between recent and long-term abandoned soils. Although the microbial biomass was initially higher in long-term abandoned soils, the net amount of 13C-labeled litter that was incorporated by the soil microbial community was ultimately comparable between recent and long-term abandoned fields. In relative terms, this means there was a higher efficiency of litter-derived 13C-incorporation in recent abandoned soil microbial communities compared to long-term abandoned soils, most likely due to a net shift from SOM-derived C towards root-derived C input in the soil microbial food web following land-abandonment.
  • Frontiers in Microbiology

    Local functioning, landscape structuring: drivers of soil microbial community structure and function in peatlands

    Sven Teurlincx, Amber Heijboer, Annelies Veraart, George Kowalchuk, Steven A.J. Declerck
    Agricultural peatlands are essential for a myriad of ecosystem functions and play an important role in the global carbon (C) cycle through C sequestration. Management of these agricultural peatlands takes place at different spatial scales, ranging from local to landscape management, and drivers of soil microbial community structure and function may be scale-dependent. Effective management for an optimal biogeochemical functioning thus requires knowledge of the drivers on soil microbial community structure and functioning, as well as the spatial scales upon which they are influenced. During two field campaigns, we examined the importance of different drivers (i.e., soil characteristics, nutrient management, vegetation composition) at two spatial scales (local vs. landscape) for, respectively, the soil microbial community structure (determined by PLFA) and soil microbial community functional capacity (as assessed by CLPP) in agricultural peatlands. First, we show by an analysis of PLFA profiles that the total microbial biomass changes with soil moisture and relative C:P nutrient availability. Secondly, we showed that soil communities are controlled by a distinct set of drivers at the local, as opposed to landscape, scale. Community structure was found to be markedly different between areas, in contrast to community function which showed high variability within areas. We further found that microbial structure appears to be controlled more at a landscape scale by nutrient-related variables, whereas microbial functional capacity is driven locally through plant community feedbacks. Optimal management strategies within such peatlands should therefore consider the scale-dependent action of soil microbial community drivers, for example by first optimizing microbial structure at the landscape scale by targeted areal management, and then optimizing soil microbial function by local vegetation management.