6708 PB Wageningen
Prof. dr. Louise Vet
Louise E.M. Vet is former-director (1999-2019) of the Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW), and professor in Evolutionary Ecology at Wageningen University. Vet was awarded several international prizes for her research on multitrophic interactions, delivering basic knowledge for the sustainable development of agro-ecosystems (e.g. British Rank Prize in Nutrition). Vet is an elected member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences.
In addition to her research, Louise Vet actively disseminates the great importance of ecological knowledge for a sustainable economy to politicians, business, and the public. She is known as a fervent proponent of nature-based integral sustainability principles (regarding energy, circularity, and biodiversity), which she herself has put into practice when building the prize-winning sustainable NIOO laboratory-office complex in Wageningen, for which she received the 2012 Golden Pyramid state prize for excellence in commissioning work in architecture.
Vet serves on a diversity of national and international boards and committees. Selection: Urgenda; Circle-economy; Commonland; DOB-Ecology; WWF-NL. In addition, Vet initiated and is chairing a broad societal coalition of scientists, nature organizations, farmers and companies to bend the curve of biodiversity decline (Deltaplan Biodiversiteitsherstel). She provides scientific advice to the European Commission through the European Academies Science Advisory Council.
In December 2017 she was awarded the highest honour of the British Ecological Society. This Honorary Membership recognises exceptional contributions at international level to the generation, communication and promotion of ecological knowledge and solutions.
In 2018 she was elected number 1 in the Sustainable 100, the annual list of the Netherlands' "greenest thinkers and doers".
Upon her step-down as director of NIOO on October 31, 2019 she received the distinction of Knight in the Order of the Lion of the Netherlands, one of the highest royal decorations.
Photogranules are a novel wastewater treatment technology that can utilize the sun's energy to treat water with lower energy input and have great potential for nutrient recovery applications. They have been proven to efficiently remove nitrogen and carbon but show lower conversion rates for phosphorus compared to established treatment systems, such as aerobic granular sludge. In this study, we successfully introduced polyphosphate accumulating organisms (PAOs) to an established photogranular culture. We operated photobioreactors in sequencing batch mode with six cycles per day and alternating anaerobic (dark) and aerobic (light) phases. We were able to increase phosphorus removal/recovery by 6 times from 5.4 to 30 mg/L/d while maintaining similar nitrogen and carbon removal compared to photogranules without PAOs. To maintain PAOs activity, alternating anaerobic feast and aerobic famine conditions were required. In future applications, where aerobic conditions are dependent on in-situ oxygenation via photosynthesis, the process will rely on sunlight availability. Therefore, we investigated the feasibility of the process under diurnal cycles with a 12-h anaerobic phase during nighttime and six short cycles during the 12 h daytime. The 12-h anaerobic phase had no adverse effect on the PAOs and phototrophs. Due to the extension of one anaerobic phase to 12 h the six aerobic phases were shortened by 47% and consequently decreased the light hours per day. This resulted in a decrease of phototrophs, which reduced nitrogen removal and biomass productivity up to 30%. Finally, we discuss and suggest strategies to apply PAO-enriched photogranules at large-scale.
Parasitoids lay their eggs in or on a host, usually another insect. During foraging, parasitoids can encounter insects that differ in terms of host suitability and quality. At one extreme end of this spectrum are non-hosts that are unsuitable for offspring development. Non-hosts are generally ignored but parasitization does occur and occasionally also results in egg deposition. Here, the authors investigate how oviposition in a non-host influences subsequent foraging behaviour of a parasitoid and whether this is mediated by learning. The study system consists of the endoparasitoid Cotesia glomerata and the presumed non-host caterpillar Mamestra brassicae. In the presence of Pieris brassicae hosts and/or their traces (frass), C. glomerata inserted its ovipositor into M. brassicae caterpillars. Eggs were deposited, but all eggs disappeared within 96 h, confirming the non-host status of M. brassicae. In contrast to the expectation, there was no memory retention after oviposition in a non-host and parasitoids did not alter their behaviour with respect to non-host contacts and ovipositions. Instead, C. glomerata became more motivated to forage on a non-host infested leaf. The authors propose that egg deposition in non-hosts by C. glomerata might be due to their high egg load, which is thought to make parasitoids less selective on host quality, especially when they have few reproductive opportunities. In such cases, fitness costs to individual females are low. Egg deposition in non-hosts might ultimately lead to host range expansion if parasitoids overcome the defence response of non-hosts over evolutionary time.
Endogenous viruses form an important proportion of eukaryote genomes and a source of novel functions. How large DNA viruses integrated into a genome evolve when they confer a benefit to their host, however, remains unknown. Bracoviruses are essential for the parasitism success of parasitoid wasps, into whose genomes they integrated ~103 million years ago. Here we show, from the assembly of a parasitoid wasp genome at a chromosomal scale, that bracovirus genes colonized all ten chromosomes of Cotesia congregata. Most form clusters of genes involved in particle production or parasitism success. Genomic comparison with another wasp, Microplitis demolitor, revealed that these clusters were already established ~53 mya and thus belong to remarkably stable genomic structures, the architectures of which are evolutionary constrained. Transcriptomic analyses highlight temporal synchronization of viral gene expression without resulting in immune gene induction, suggesting that no conflicts remain between ancient symbiotic partners when benefits to them converge.
Animals can alter their foraging behavior through associative learning, where an encounter with an essential resource (e.g., food or a reproductive opportunity) is associated with nearby environmental cues (e.g., volatiles). This can subsequently improve the animal's foraging efficiency. However, when these associated cues are encountered again, the anticipated resource is not always present. Such an unrewarding experience, also called a memory-extinction experience, can change an animal's response to the associated cues. Although some studies are available on the mechanisms of this process, they rarely focus on cues and rewards that are relevant in an animal's natural habitat. In this study, we tested the effect of different types of ecologically relevant memory-extinction experiences on the conditioned plant volatile preferences of the parasitic wasp Cotesia glomerata that uses these cues to locate its caterpillar hosts. These extinction experiences consisted of contact with only host traces (frass and silk), contact with nonhost traces, or oviposition in a nonhost near host traces, on the conditioned plant species. Our results show that the lack of oviposition, after contacting host traces, led to the temporary alteration of the conditioned plant volatile preference in C. glomerata, but this effect was plant species-specific. These results provide novel insights into how ecologically relevant memory-extinction experiences can fine-tune an animal's foraging behavior. This fine-tuning of learned behavior can be beneficial when the lack of finding a resource accurately predicts current, but not future foraging opportunities. Such continuous reevaluation of obtained information helps animals to prevent maladaptive foraging behavior.
Interactions between aboveground and belowground organisms are important drivers of plant growth and performance in natural ecosystems. Making practical use of such above-belowground biotic interactions offers important opportunities for enhancing the sustainability of agriculture, as it could favor crop growth, nutrient supply, and defense against biotic and abiotic stresses. However, the operation of above-and belowground organisms at different spatial and temporal scales provides important challenges for application in agriculture. Aboveground organisms, such as herbivores and pollinators, operate at spatial scales that exceed individual fields and are highly variable in abundance within growing seasons. In contrast, pathogenic, symbiotic, and decomposer soil biota operate at more localized spatial scales from individual plants to patches of square meters, however, they generate legacy effects on plant performance that may last from single to multiple years. The challenge is to promote pollinators and suppress pests at the landscape and field scale, while creating positive legacy effects of local plant-soil interactions for next generations of plants. Here, we explore the possibilities to improve utilization of above-belowground interactions in agro-ecosystems by considering spatio-temporal scales at which aboveground and belowground organisms operate. We identified that successful integration of above-belowground biotic interactions initially requires developing crop rotations and intercropping systems that create positive local soil legacy effects for neighboring as well subsequent crops. These configurations may then be used as building blocks to design landscapes that accommodate beneficial aboveground communities with respect to their required resources. For successful adoption of above-belowground interactions in agriculture there is a need for context-specific solutions, as well as sound socio-economic embedding.