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New IBL-professor in “Ecology of plant-microbe-insect interactions”: Martijn Bezemer

Martijn Bezemer has been appointed as professor in “Ecology of plant-microbe-insect interactions” within the Faculty of Science at the Institute of Biology from the 1st of September 2016. His main research focus is on aboveground-belowground interactions.

Bezemer’s research focus is on the underpinnings of how plants mediate interactions between aboveground insects and microbial communities in the soil. He also applies the fundamental insights to (i) restoration of ecosystems within the context of former arable fields and (ii) influence the resistance against soil diseases and aboveground insect pests to important flower crops in the Netherlands.

Martijn Bezemer

In Leiden, Bezemer will team up with colleagues to study how soil microbiomes influence the composition of plant chemical compounds, plant hormone signaling, and plant-insect interactions and how plants influence their local soil microbiome. “Ecology is central to my research.” – says Martijn Bezemer. “In Leiden, I will aim to study aboveground-belowground interactions in real and complex ecosystems with the ultimate goal to increase biodiversity, improve nature restoration and increase resistance of crops against pests and diseases.”


From 1989 to 1994, Bezemer studied plant pathology at Wageningen University. In 1995, he went to Imperial College at Silwood park, England, where he studied effects of global warming on plant communities and aboveground insect population dynamics.  Subsequently, he moved to UC Berkeley, USA for a project on the evolutionary ecology of insect herbivore-parasitoid interactions to return to the Netherlands in 2000 to work at the Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO), to study the link between plant-soil interactions and aboveground plant-insect interactions.

In 2004, he moved to Wageningen University, first as lecturer and later on a personal fellowship grant from the graduate school Production Ecology and Resource Conservation. He continued working on the effects of plant diversity on insects and soil communities.  A few years later Martijn Bezemer returned to the NIOO as senior scientist.

In 2007, he received a NWO-VIDI grant to study how insect and soil communities associated to ragwort plants are affected by the identity and diversity of the surrounding plants. Last year Bezemer received a NWO-VICI grant to study natural grasslands and how plants change their local soil microbial community and how these changes then, in turn, influence other plants that grow later in the soil and the aboveground insects that are associated to these plants.

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