Ruben Van De Walle

Drs. Ruben Van De Walle
Terrestrial Ecology Unit
Department of Biology
Ghent University
K.L. Ledeganckstraat 35
9000 Gent Belgium

Phone: +32 (0)9 264 50 56

The spatial distribution of dune-building grass and its impact on biodiversity and dune functioning in the face of climate change.

Barrier dunes form the first row of dunes that protect the hinterland against storm surges. Coastal protection has historically focused on the development of hard infrastructure such as dikes and sea walls. The last decade, however, it became clear that only the integration of natural dunes in coastal defence will enable maximal resilience and resistance against more frequent and intense floods predicted with climate change. The concept of ‘building with nature’ is therefore receiving increased global attention.

Marram grass is the keystone plant species central to dune development, but we currently lack an understanding of the contributing of its spatial configuration to dune resilience and resistance against disturbance. My research makes use of analyses of high-resolution drone and satellite images together with modelling of dune dynamics to unravel these relationships.

On the other hand, marram grass dunes support a community full of life. The main part of my research will be focussed on how the spatial configuration of marram grass influences these communities: Are some configurations more easily invaded by an alien plant species? Do dune-specific species react differently to the spatial configuration. How do the above- and belowground food webs change according to the spatial configuration? In the end I hope I will be able to inform and steer ongoing nature-based engineering practices to optimize coastal protection at the same time as biodiversity.

Have a look at a presentation of my work.

Publication list (UGent affiliations only)