Veen Group

We study how soil communities drive fundamental ecosystem functions. The knowledge we generate will contribute to improve sustainable agriculture and can help to mitigate climate change.

Soils and the organisms living within them provide fundamental ecosystem functions that underlie the functioning of all ecosystems on earth, support agriculture and play a key role in regulating our global climate. In the Veen group we study how soil organisms drive soil carbon and nutrient cycling and thereby determine primary productivity, carbon storage and carbon exchange to the atmosphere. Our main aims are to elucidate (1) how variation in the capacity of soil (microbial) communities to process organic compounds controls carbon loss, carbon storage and nutrient availability in soils and (2) how soil management can steer (microbial) communities for optimizing ecosystem functioning. Our research fits within the NIOO theme on global climate change and sustainable use of land and water.

Currently we are involved in four major research projects:

1. Down to Earth: the role of specialized microbes in driving carbon storage. Plants have intimate relationships with organisms in the soil. These organisms not only affect the growth of the plants via beneficial and pathogenic interactions, but they also recycle plant compounds that enter the soil as root exudates and via plant litter inputs. We test how plant-specific microbiomes use carbon from plant organic inputs and thereby drive carbon cycling and storage. (funded by NWO)

2. Food forests are human-made ecosystems where food is produced, while at the same time biodiversity and soil carbon storage are stimulated. In this project we aim at quantifying soil biodiversity and functioning in food forests compared to other types of land use. This projcet is part of a larger TKI project where aboveground biodiversity and earning models in food forests are investigated as well. (funded by TKI)

3. Climate-smart forestry (CSF) aims at creating forests that are productive, resilient to warming and extreme weather events such as prolonged droughts, and that store carbon to mitigate climate change. This is urgently needed to fight climate change and to reduce detrimental effects of droughts on forest productivity. In this project we provide scientific evidence on how forest management and drought will affect tree growth and survival, and carbon storage in trees and soil. This information will be used to make current forestry management tools CSF-proof.  This project is a collaboration with Wageningen University. (funded by TTW)

4. Soil biodiversity for soil functioning: Understanding how soil biodiversity is driving soil functioning and testing how we can steer soil functioning is vital for sustainable land use. In a number of research projects we focus on understanding relationships between soil management, soil biodiversity and soil functioning. These projects include: TTW-perspectief project SoilProS, Agricultural Green Development Program (collaboration with China Academy of Sciences), sustainable food systems (collaboration with Hannah van Zanten; WUR) and KIC-project Soils2Guts (

Sayaguesa Planken Wambuis
Annika Vermaat
Sayaguesa Planken Wambuis


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