Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics

Photographer: Biometris

prof. dr. P.C. (Peter) de Ruiter

Scientific Director IBED
  • Faculty of Science
    Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics
  • Visiting address
    Science Park A
    Science Park 904  
  • Postal address:
    Postbus  94248
    1090 GE  Amsterdam
    T: 0205255684

Research Expertise and Interests

My research interests are in the field of environmental and biological sciences, especially the analysis of structure and stability in complex communities (food webs), and the relationship between biological diversity, ecosystem functioning and environmental quality. Most of my studies have been applied to soil ecosystems. Soils are in particular interesting, as (i) soils contain extremely diverse, complex and dynamic communities, that (ii) govern soil processes such as the decomposition of organic matter, carbon sequestration and nutrient cycling that form major components of the global cycling of materials, energy and nutrients. Key in my approach is the linking of empirical information (mostly from field surveys) to mathematical models. This approach enables to derive ecosystem functioning, e.g. in terms of carbon sequestration and nutrient cycling, from the observed soil food web structures. The analyses show that the relationship between food web structure and soil ecosystem function is mutual in fundamental ways. Soil food webs govern ecosystems processes, while processes shape the structure and stability of the food webs. Along with analysing food webs and ecosystem processes in soils I became interested in the occurrence of  ecological ‘tipping points’ and ‘sudden shifts’ in terrestrial ecosystems. These concepts have been developed for aquatic systems, but we found that they also occur during degradation and desertification in arid ecosystems. The occurrence of such shifts seems to be related to soil ecological processes that determine the water and nutrient uptake of the plants. Prevention of such shifts has a great value for securing food productivity in large areas worldwide.

The concepts we proposed to better understand the interrelationship between soil ecosystem processes and the structure and stability of biological communities, i.e. ‘trophic-level dependent interaction strengths’ and ‘weak links in long loops, and ‘local facilitation on small scales versus competition on larger scales’  has been published in high quality scientific journals and are well-received in the international literature.

List of top 10 publications (Oct 2017):

  1. Neutel, A.M., Heesterbeek , J.A.P., de Ruiter, P.C. (2002) Stability in real food webs, weak links in long loops. Science 296, 1120-1123. 
  2. De Deyn, G.B., Raaijmakers, C.E., Zoomer, H.R., Berg, M.P., de Ruiter, P.C., Verhoef, H.A., Bezemer, T.M., van der Putten, W.H. (2003) Soil invertebrate fauna enhances grassland succession and diversity. Nature 422, 711-713.
  3. Rietkerk, M.,  Dekker, S.C., de Ruiter, P.C., van de Koppel, J. (2004). Self-organised Patchiness and Catastrophic Shifts in Ecosystems. Science 305, 1926-1929.
  4. Hessen, D.O., Agren, G.I., Anderson, T.R., Elser, J.J., De Ruiter, P.C. (2004) Carbon sequestration in ecosystems, the role of stoichiometry. Ecology  85 , 1179-1192.
  5. De Ruiter, P.C., Wolters, V., Moore, J.C., Winemiller, K.O. (2005) Food Web Ecology, Playing Jenga and Beyond. Science 309, 68.
  6. Kéfi, S., Rietkerk, M., Alados, C.L., Pueyo, Y., Papanastasis, V.P., ElAich, A., de Ruiter, P.C. (2007) Spatial vegetation patterns and imminent desertification in Mediterranean arid ecosystems. Nature 449, 213-217.
  7. Neutel, A.M., Heesterbeek, J.A.P, van de Koppel, J., Hoenderboom, G., Vos, A., Kaldeway, C., Berendse, F., de Ruiter, P.C. (2007) Reconciling complexity with stability in naturally assembling food webs. Nature 449, 599-602.
  8. Eppinga, M.B., de Ruiter, P.C., Wassen, M.J., Rietkerk, M. (2009). Nutrients and hydrology indicate the driving mechanisms of peatland surface patterning. American Naturalist 173: 803-18
  9. Kefi, S., Rietkerk, M., Roy, M.,  Franc, A., de Ruiter, P.C., Pascual, M. (2010). Robust scaling in ecosystems and the meltdown of patch size distributions before extinction. Ecology Letters 14(1):29-35.
  10. Fujita, Y. Olde Venterink, H., van Bodegom, P.M., Douma, J.C., Heil, G.W., Hölzel, N., Jabłońska, E., Kotowski, W., Okruszko,T., Pawlikowski, P., de Ruiter, P.C., Wassen, M.J. (2013) Low investment in sexual production threatens plants adapted to phosphorus limitation. Nature, doi:10.1038/nature12733.

(complete publication list is included in CV)


Dynamic Food Webs

Dynamic Food Webs

Multispecies assemblages, ecosystem development, and environmental change.

Editors: Peter C. de Ruiter, Volkmar Wolters, John C. Moore

Academic Press 2005; 590 pages.

Energetic Food Webs

Energetic Food Webs

An Analysis of Real and Model Ecosystems

Authors: John C. Moore, Peter C. de Ruiter

Oxford University Press 2012; 350 pages.

Adaptive Food Webs

Adaptive Food Webs

Stability and Transition in Real and Model Ecosystems

Editors: John C. Moore, Peter C. de Ruiter, Kevin McCann, Volkmar Wolters

Cambridge University Press 2017; 380 pages.

Promotor PhD-students (latest update Oct 2017)

  1. M. Vreeken-Buijs. Ecology of microarthropods in arable soil (Wageningen UR 1998, co-promotor)
  2. O. van Dam. Forest filled with gaps (Utrecht University 1998, 2nd promotor)
  3. M. Bootsma. Stress and recovery in wetland ecosystems (Utrecht University, 2000)
  4. H. Olde Venterink. Nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium flows controlling plant productivity and species richness (Utrecht University 2000)
  5. A.M. Neutel. Stability of Complex Food Webs, Pyramids of Biomass, Interaction Strengths and the Weight of Trophic Loops (Utrecht University 2001)
  6. G. de Deyn. Soil fauna and plant community interactions in relation to secondary succession and diversity (Utrecht University 2004)
  7. M.A. Tobor Kaplon. Soil life under stress (Utrecht University 2006)
  8. Mw. M. Schouten. Patterns in Biodiversity; Spatial organisation of biodiversity in the Netherlands
  9. S. Kefi. Reading the signs (Utrecht University 2008)
  10. C. van der Brink. Land use and groundwater quality. How technical instrumentation can support groundwater planning (Utrecht University 2009)
  11. M. Eppinga. aMazing pattern: spatial self-organization in peatlands (Utrecht University 2009, 2nd promotor)
  12. Remko Holtkamp. Soils in transition, patterns and processes in soil ecosystems during the restoration of natural ecosystems on former agricultural land (Utrecht University 2010)
  13. Yuki Fujita. An integrated hydro-ecological model for fen conservation (Utrecht University 2010, 2nd promotor)
  14. Monique Gulickx. The landscape at your service; spatial analysis of landscape services for sustainable development. WU, October 3, 2013)
  15. Roland E. van der Vliet. Closing in on meadow birds; coping with a changing landscape in the Netherlands (Utrecht University, November 27, 2013, 2nd promotor)
  16. Phuong Ngoc Truong. Expert knowledge in geostistical inference and prediction (Wageningen University, June 30, 2014)
  17. Cassandra van Altena. Searching for Balance; Stability and equilibria of food webs (Wageningen University, May 17th 2016)
  18. Jeroen van Leeuwen. The Soil Life Cycle; Food webs and ecosystem services during soil transformations (Wageningen University, Jan 8th, 2016)
  19. Fernando R. da Silva. Small is Superior; Plant-provided prey refuges, predator prey dynamics and biological control (University of Amsterdam, June 6th, 2016).
  20. Sanja Selakovic. Infection in ecosystems: Data, Models and Effects (Utrecht University July 5th 2016).
  21. Karen A. M. Cárdenas. What lies beneath? Linking litter and canopy food webs to protect ornamental crops (University of Amsterdam, June 21st 2017)


Contribution to the early career of  excellent researchers

Three of my former PhD-students have obtained permanent position at universities or research institutions on the basis of the excellent work they did in the context of their PhD research.

  1. Dr. Anje-Margriet Neutel has two Science and one Nature paper on the basis of her PhD research. She is now staff member at the British Antarctic Survey, Cambridge, UK
  2. Dr. Gerlinde de Deyn has one Nature paper on the basis of her PhD research. She was guest scientist at the University of Lancaster(UK). She now has a tenure position at Wageningen University (NL)
  3. Dr. Sonia Kefi has one Nature paper  on the basis of her PhD research. She worked at the University of Darmstadt (Germany) on a Rubicon project. She has a tenure position at the University of Montpellier (France).



  • Heijboer, A., de Ruiter, P. C., Bodelier, P. L. E., & Kowalchuk, G. A. (2018). Modulation of litter decomposition by the soil microbial food web under influence of land use change. Frontiers in Microbiology, 9, [2860]. DOI: 10.3389/fmicb.2018.02860  [details] 
  • Heijboer, A., Ruess, L., Traugott, M., Jousset, A., & de Ruiter, P. C. (2018). Empirical Methods of Identifying and Quantifying Trophic Interactions for Constructing Soil Food-Web Models. In J. C. Moore, P. C. de Ruiter, K. S. McCann, & V. Wolters (Eds.), Adaptive Food Webs: Stability and Transitions of Real and Model Ecosystems (pp. 257-286). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. DOI: 10.1017/9781316871867.018  [details] 
  • Selaković, S., de Ruiter, P. C., & Heesterbeek, H. (2018). Linking Ecology and Epidemiology: The Case of Infected Resource. In J. C. Moore, P. C. de Ruiter, K. S. McCann, & V. Wolters (Eds.), Adaptive Food Webs: Stability and Transitions of Real and Model Ecosystems (pp. 384-405). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. DOI: 10.1017/9781316871867.025  [details] 


  • Eisenhauer, N., Antunes, P. M., Bennett, A. E., Birkhofer, K., Bissett, A., Bowker, M. A., ... Powell, J. R. (2017). Priorities for research in soil ecology. Pedobiologia, 63, 1-7. DOI: 10.1016/j.pedobi.2017.05.003  [details] 
  • de Ruiter, P. C., & Gaedke, U. (2017). Emergent facilitation promotes biological diversity in pelagic food webs. Food Webs, 10, 15-21. DOI: 10.1016/j.fooweb.2017.02.003  [details] 
  • van Leeuwen, J. P., Djukic, I., Bloem, J., Lehtinen, T., Hemerik, L., de Ruiter, P. C., & Lair, G. J. (2017). Effects of land use on soil microbial biomass, activity and community structure at different soil depths in the Danube floodplain. European Journal of Soil Biology, 79, 14-20. DOI: 10.1016/j.ejsobi.2017.02.001  [details] 


  • Mayor, A. G., Valdecantos, A., Vallejo, V. R., Keizer, J. J., Bloem, J., Baeza, J., ... de Ruiter, P. C. (2016). Fire-induced pine woodland to shrubland transitions in Southern Europe may promote shifts in soil fertility. Science of the Total Environment, 573, 1232-1241. DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2016.03.243  [details] 
  • Heijboer, A., ten Berge, H. F. M., de Ruiter, P. C., Jørgensen, H. B., Kowalchuk, G. A., & Bloem, J. (2016). Plant biomass, soil microbial community structure and nitrogen cycling under different organic amendment regimes; a 15N tracer-based approach. Applied Soil Ecology, 107, 251-260. DOI: 10.1016/j.apsoil.2016.06.009  [details] 
  • van der Zee, E. M., Angelini, C., Govers, L. L., Christianen, M. J. A., Altieri, A. H., van der Reijden, K. J., ... van der Heide, T. (2016). How habitat-modifying organisms structure the food web of two coastal ecosystems. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 283(1826), [20152326]. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2015.2326  [details] 
  • Hastings, A., McCann, K. S., & de Ruiter, P. C. (2016). Introduction to the special issue: theory of food webs. Theoretical Ecology, 9(1), 1-2. DOI: 10.1007/s12080-016-0292-1  [details] 
  • van Altena, C., Hemerik, L., & de Ruiter, P. C. (2016). Food web stability and weighted connectance: the complexity-stability debate revisited. Theoretical Ecology, 9(1), 49-58. DOI: 10.1007/s12080-015-0291-7  [details] 
  • Creamer, R. E., Hannula, S. E., Van Leeuwen, J. P., Stone, D., Rutgers, M., Schmelz, R. M., ... Lemanceau, P. (2016). Ecological network analysis reveals the inter-connection between soil biodiversity and ecosystem function as affected by land use across Europe. Applied Soil Ecology, 97, 112-124. DOI: 10.1016/j.apsoil.2015.08.006  [details] 



  • Moore, J. C., de Ruiter, P. C., McCann, K. S., & Wolters, V. (Eds.) (2018). Adaptive Food Webs: Stability and Transitions of Real and Model Ecosystems. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. DOI: 10.1017/9781316871867  [details] 

Talk / presentation

  • Morriën, E. (invited speaker), Hannula, S. E. (speaker), Snoek, L. B. (speaker), van Veen, J. A. (speaker), de Ruiter, P. C. (speaker) & van der Putten, W. H. (speaker) (24-11-2016). Soil networks in transition: from abandoned agricultural fields to species-rich grasslands, Current themes in Ecology, Lunteren, Netherlands.



  • Gao, J. (2017). Interactive adsorption of phenolic acids and amino acids on soil minerals: Implications for the formation and properties of soil mineral–organic associations [details] 
  • Muñoz Cárdenas, K. A. (2017). What lies beneath? Linking litter and canopy food webs to protect ornamental crops [details] 
  • Revynthi, A. M. (2017). Should I stay or should I go? The role of dispersal and cannibalism in exploitation strategies of a predatory mite [details] 
This list of publications is extracted from the UvA-Current Research Information System. Questions? Ask the library  or the Pure staff  of your faculty / institute. Log in to Pure  to edit your publications. Log in to Personal Page Publication Selection tool  to manage the visibility of your publications on this list.

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