Wim H. van der Putten

Prof. dr. ir. Wim H. van der Putten

Head of department
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Visiting Address

Droevendaalsesteeg 10
6708 PB Wageningen

+31 (0) 317 47 34 00

The Netherlands


I am interested in unraveling how ecological systems respond to changes in biodiversity, climate, and land use. From thereon, my research contributes to the restoration, conservation, and maintenance of biodiversity under climate and land use change.


Wim van der Putten is Head of the Department of Terrestrial Ecology at the Netherlands Institute of Ecology. He graduated at Wageningen University in 1984 and defended his research on 'establishment, growth and degeneration of Ammophila arenaria in coastal foredunes' (performed at the Institute for Ecological Research in Oostvoorne) at Wageningen University in 1989. From 1988 onwards, he was appointed as a Postdoc the institute of Ecology at Heteren. In 1994 he became senior scientist at the department of Plant-Microorganism Interactions and acted as interim head in 1997. In 2000, he became head of the newly established department of Multitrophic Interactions at the Netherlands institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW). In September 2003, he was appointed extraordinary professor in Functional Biodiversity at Wageningen University. In 2005, he was awarded a VICI-grant from NWO-ALW (the Dutch research council), and in 2012 he obtained an ERC-Advanced grant from the European Research Council. Currently.

Wim has been associate editor of the Journal of Coastal Research, Plant and Soil, Plant Biology, the Journal of Applied Ecology, Oikos and Oecologia. Currently, he is associate editor of Ecology Letters and Board Reviewing Editor at Science. Since 1992, he has been coordinator of a number of European research projects (EUREED, CLUE, INVASS, EcoTrain), as well as PI in others (TLinks, Biorhiz, Consider, Soilservice, EcoFinders, and Liberation). He has been co-editor of a book on Soil Ecology, as well as on the European Atlas of Soil Biodiversity.

In 2010 he initiated the Wageningen Centre for Soil Ecology (CSE; http://www.soilecology.eu/) and since then he is chairman of the daily board. Aims of this centre are to stimulate utilization of knowledge from fundamental research and to attract and support young researchers in soil ecology. In 2011, he was one of the founders of the Global Soil Biodiversity Initiative (GSBI; http://www.globalsoilbiodiversity.org/) that integrates and disseminates information on the biological status of soils world-wide, a.o. serving as an expert centre for FAO, CBD and other global organizations.

Awards and distinctions

2021 Elected member of Academia Europaea
2020 Marie Curie award to Lilia Serrano
2019 Marie Curie individual grants to Safaa Wasof and Elizabeth Wandrag
2013 Co-author on paper by O. Kostenko et al. Ecology Letters 2012: NERN-prize and PE&RC prize of best paper 2012
2012 ERC-Advanced grant on 'aboveground-belowground community re-assemblages under global warming'
2012 Co-author on paper by T.F.J. van de Voorde et al.: runner-up for John Harper prize from Journal of Ecology
2009 Visiting scientist at Centre for Population Biology, Imperial College at Silwood Park, UK
2008 Co-author on paper by T. Engelkes et al. receiving the NERN-prize 2008
2007 Teachers award Wageningen University
2006 Co-author of paper by R. Soler et al. receiving Charles Elton award from the Journal of Animal Ecology
2005 Co-author of paper by G.B. De Deyn et al. receiving John Harper award from the Journal of Ecology
2004 VICI-award Dutch Research Council for personal innovation
2003/4 Visiting scientist at Landcare Research institute New Zealand
Main research areas

The research of Wim van der Putten has shown how soil-borne pathogens and parasites can drive compositional change in natural vegetation (Nature, 1993). Before that time, the traditional view in ecology was that symbiotic soil biota (mycorrhizal fungi and nitrogen-fixing microbes) and abiotic soil conditions (nutrients, pH, porosity, structure, and water availability) were the main belowground drivers of species composition and productivity of natural vegetation. His breakthrough on the role of soil-borne pathogens has stimulated numerous studies that advance understanding the role of plant-soil feedback interactions in functioning of natural ecosystems. He and coworkers have demonstrated that these feedback interactions promote diversity in plant communities (De Deyn et al. Nature, 2003), which is important information for ecological restoration, and that plant species that successfully shift range under current climate warming have similar properties as invasive species because of escape from aboveground and belowground enemies (Engelkes and Morrien et al. Nature, 2008). He and co-workers showed that extreme weather events may remain as legacy effects in the soil biota thus influencing plant invasiveness (PNAS, 2013). Future breakthroughs are expected to come from his ERC advanced grant (awarded in 2012), which enables him to gain insights in belowground-aboveground community re-assemblage process following climate warming-induced range shifts. These insights will provide fundamental understanding of ecological-evolutionary dynamics in terrestrial communities, which may lead to novel ways of ecosystem management by enhancing adaptation in natural communities to global environmental changes. Wim is also known for his contributions to many conceptual papers, such as on aboveground-belowground interactions (Van der Putten et al. TREE, 2001, Wardle et al. Science, 2004), species range shifts under climate warming (Van der Putten AREES 2012), species gain and loss (Wardle et al. Science, 2011), and belowground biodiversity and ecosystem functioning (Bardgett and Van der Putten Nature, 2014).
Recent books & reports

Jeffery S, Gardi C, Jones A, Montanarella L, Marmo L, Miko L, Ritz K, Peres G, Römbke J. and Van der Putten WH (eds.), 2010, European Atlas of Soil Biodiversity. European Commission, Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg. ISBN 978-92-79-15806-3, ISSN 1018-5593, doi 10.2788/94222, 128 pp.

Wall, D.H., Bardgett, R.D., Behan-Pelletier, V., Herrick, J.E., Jones, T.H., Ritz, K., Six, J., Strong, D.R., and van der Putten, W.H. (eds.) 2012. Soil Ecology and Ecosystem Services. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Turbé, A, De Toni, A, Benito, P, Lavelle, P, Lavelle, P, Ruiz, N, Van der Putten, W.H., Labouze, E, and Mudgal, S. 2010 Soil biodiversity: functions, threats and tools for policy makers. Bio Intelligence Service, IRD, and NIOO, Report for European Commission (DG Environment), Brussels.
Rhizosphere 4 Conference (June 21-25, 2015, Maastricht, The Netherlands)

Management and organization

2017- Member of the RNWT of the KNAW

2016- Review panel KNAW Fund Ecology

2016-2017 Advisory board 2nd Global Soil Biodiversity Conference, Nanjing, China

2016-2018 Chair EASAC Committee on Soils at Risk

2016 Onderwijsprijs (Education prize) 2016 committee KNAW

2016 Evaluation committee environment panel Strategic Alliances Netherlands-China

2014-2017 Technical Chairman VICI committee of Dutch Research Council Life Sciences
2013- Chairman Althof Foundation
2012- Member of Editors group of Global Soil Biodiversity Atlas
2012- Organization committee of Soil Biodiversity symposium (Dijon, 2014)
2012- Member of organization of Rhizosphere 4 conference (Maastricht, 2015)
2012- Chairman De Levende Natuur Foundation
2012- Management team BE-Basic project
2012- Scientific Advisory Committee Gegevensautoriteit (Dutch Authority for Ecological Data)
2011- Member daily board Global Soil Biodiversity Initiative (GSBI)
2011- PI-Management Team Jena Experiment
2010- Chairman daily board Centre for Soil Ecology NIOO-WUR
2010- Scientific Advisory Board Centre for Functional Ecology, University of Coimbra, Portugal
2010- Steering Committee Ecotron CEFE-CNRS Montpellier
2010-2011 Member Knowledge Table SKB
2008-2012 Functional Agro Biodiversity Steering Committee
2006-2008 NWO-ALW VIDI committee
2006-2008 NWO Mozaiek committee (chairman in 2008)
2006-2007 Year Planet Earth Steering Committee
2002-2006 Coordinator EU-Ecotrain
2002-2005 Daily Board EU-TLinks
2002-2011 Replacing Director of Centre for Terrestrial Ecology
1997- NWO-ALW ad hoc selection committees
1997-1999 Coordinator EC-INVASS project
1996-1998 Coordinator EC-CLUE project
1996-1999 Board of the Dutch-Flemish Ecological Society (Secretary)
1994-1995 Coordinator EC-EUREED project
1992 Interim management Bird Ring Department at the Institute for Ecological Research
1989-1991 Coordinator Applied Ecology projects at the Institute for Ecological Research

Research groups


Projects & collaborations