Universiteit Leiden

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Marco Visser

Assistant Professor

Dr.ir. M.D. Visser
+31 71 527 2727

Marco Visser is broadly interested in forests and the role they play in the earth system.

More information about Marco Visser

Professional experience

Marco’s research interests lie at the intersection of empirical and theoretical ecology. His work confronts ecological and evolutionary theory with empirical data using mathematical, statistical and computational methods. His work has one overarching theme: connecting ecological problems across multiple scales, focusing on how detailed processes scale from leaf to ecosystem.

Marco has worked in a wide variety of forests, from the primeval forest in Poland, to tropical forests in Malaysia and Panama.  He completed his PhD in 2016, working on the processes that structure diversity in tropical forests, and integrating these mechanisms across broader spatial, temporal, and organizational scales. He continued this line of research as a post-doctoral researcher at Princeton University’s department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, where he became interested in biophysics, remote sensing and mathematical ecology (2016 - 2021), In 2021, Marco joined the Institute of Environmental Sciences (CML) at Leiden University as an assistant professor. Here, he  works to understand the rapidly changing dynamics in global forests, and their feedback on the biodiversity and climate of our planet.  

Marco believes that one of the great joys in life is learning new things. This is why he strives to create a work environment that is not only stimulating and productive, but also safe, healthy, and inclusive for everyone. An environment in which everybody can be themselves and share in the fascination of learning about our beautiful blue planet. 

Research topics

Forest ecosystems play a critical role in the global carbon, water and energy cycle but have highly uncertain future dynamics. Forests cycle more carbon and water than any other terrestrial ecosystem, which is why they play key roles in Earth's energy balance. For instance, tropical forests comprise only 7% of the total land area but are the largest terrestrial forest carbon sink and store, and are major sources of water vapor for areas downwind, and are home to approximately half of Earth’s biodiversity.

Research themes include: 

1) The health of (tropical) forests. A compelling question in the face of climate change is: how rapidly are tropical forests degrading? If the role forest play in the water, carbon and energy cycle disintegrates slowly over time, humanity could hope to adapt, but if change is more rapid there would be real problem. Therefore, how rapidly are the forest being degraded?  And what are the consequences? And who are the victims and culprits? To tackle this question, Marco combines remote sensing, biophysics and machine-learning. 

2) Biodiversity: What maintains species diversity? Few questions have generated quite as much interest and still remain a conundrum. Marco is interested in the role pathogens and parasites play in maintaining coexistence, and in whether hypothesized mechanisms of plant species coexistence emerge as evolutionary stable systems - focusing not only on the hosts but also the parasites. 

3) Optimizing ecosystems traits. Marco combines physics-based models with species traits, in search of bio-geoengineering solutions to climate change that move beyond the traditional carbon cycle focus in natural, agriculture and urban systems.

Assistant Professor

  • Science
  • Centrum voor Milieuwetenschappen Leiden
  • CML/Environmental Biology

Work address

Van Steenis
Einsteinweg 2
2333 CC Leiden
Room number A3.10



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