Meet Judith and her project

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How will increased flooding impact vegetation and ecosystem processes that are coupled to climate?

Due to human activities and climate change, flooding events have increased in severity and frequency worldwide. Such flooding events have large effects on vegetation and plant physiology, in turn impacting the microbial processes that drive nutrient fluxes, carbon sequestration and greenhouse gas emissions. Recent advances now allow future flooding scenarios to be simulated with respect to location, depth, frequency and duration, thereby providing the necessary input to examine future flooding impacts on riparian vegetation composition and functioning. We will examine the impacts of flooding on the interactions between vegetation and soil microbes, focusing on how changes in hydrology affect vegetation development through its effects on plant-plant and plant-soil interactions.

Plants have different strategies to help them deal with flooding events, and these strategies are tailored to different flooding regimes with respect to the frequency, depth and duration of flooding. Depending on prevailing flooding conditions, strategies may involve a metabolic shut-down to wait until water subsides or may trigger shoot or leaf extension to rise above the water level. It is currently unknown how such plant adaptations or strategies affect plant-plant and plant-soil interactions. However knowledge on such interactions is crucial in predicting effects of climate change in the complexity of the real world.

By combining data from field records, model inferences and physiological measurements obtained in experiments, we seek to explain and predict how vegetation dynamics and associated ecosystem processes will respond to changing flooding regimes. The results of this project are expected to provide critical and novel insight into the ecosystem impacts and climate feedbacks of increased global flooding pressure on land water interactions.

About Judith

Judith Sarneel is connected as a researcher to the Ecology and Biodiversity group and the Ecophysiology group. Her research focuses on riparian ecology both from a restoration and a fundamental perspective. She is interested in processes that shape and change the vegetation along rivers, streams and lakes with emphasis on the importance of dispersal and germination for community assembly. In 2010 she obtained her PhD degree on colonization processes in fen ponds, after which she addressed the effects of water level fluctuations on riparian expansion at the Netherlands Institute of Ecology and the effects of restoring structural stream morphology at UmeƄ University.

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