Seagrass meadows and salt-marshes form the ecological and economic pillars of our Earth's coastal zones. Over the last decades, both ecosystems have suffered unexpected large-scale sudden losses due to mass-mortality of the vegetation ("dieback") of which the underlying causes are still largely unclear. Here, I hypothesize that seagrass meadows and salt-marshes can be considered biogeochemical hotspots driven by keystone mutualisms, pointing at basic processes that can explain their current dramatic worldwide losses. Biogeochemical hotspots are areas that show disproportionately high elemental cycling rates compared to their surroundings. Seagrass and salt-marsh plants engineer such hotspots, because they trap large amounts of organic matter by reducing currents and waves. This stimulates decomposition rates and nutrient release, causing these plants to facilitate their own growth. However, the enhanced anaerobic decomposition of organic matter also stimulates the production of toxic sulphides, counteracting the positive effects of increased nutrient availability for plants. My recent work demonstrated that keystone mutualisms between sulphide-oxidizer consortia and marine plants may strongly mitigate the effects of increased sulphide production, thereby breaking the potential negative feedback associated with organic matter accumulation. I hypothesize that anthropogenic impacts - specifically global warming and eutrophication - can disrupt these keystone mutualisms, leading to ecosystem collapse and degradation of biogeochemical coastal hotspots. In this project, I propose a combination of field surveys, laboratory and field experiments, and computer modelling to investigate these hypotheses. In order to achieve generally valid conclusions, I will explore these ideas in seagrass and salt-marsh ecosystems in both temperate (Wadden Sea, Netherlands) and subtropical (Florida Bay & Seahorse Key, Florida, USA) areas.


Wetenschappelijk artikel

  • JA van Gils(2013): Toxin constraint explains diet choice, survival and population dynamics in a molluscivore shorebird Proceedings of the Royal Society B pp. 0861 - 0861
  • S Donadi(2013): Non-trophic interactions control benthic producers on intertidal flats Ecosystems pp. 1325 - 1335
  • LPM Lamers(2013): Sulfide as a soil phytotoxin – A review Frontiers in Plant Science pp. 268 - 268
  • S Donadi(2013): Cross-habitat interactions control community structure on intertidal flats Ecology pp. 489 - 498
  • JJC Netten(2013): Interactive effects of pH, temperature and light during ammonia toxicity events in Elodea canadensis Chemistry & Ecology pp. 448 - 458
  • EJ Weerman(2013): Predation by native Brown Shrimp on invasive Pacific Oyster spat Journal of Sea Research pp. 126 - 130
  • MJA Christianen(2014): Habitat collapse due to turtle overgrazing globally threatens conservation values of marine protected areas Proceedings of the Royal Society B pp. 2890 - 2890
  • D Sanders(2014): Integrating ecosystem engineering and food webs Oikos pp. 513 - 524
  • S Donadi(2014): The bivalve loop: Intra-specific facilitation in burrowing cockles through habitat modification Journal of Experimental Marine Biology & Ecology pp. 44 - 52
  • T van der Heide(2014): Predation and habitat modification synergistically interact to control bivalve recruitment on intertidal mudflats Biological Conservation pp. 163 - 169
  • EM van der Zee(2015): Habitat modification drives benthic trophic diversity in an intertidal soft-bottom ecosystem Journal of Experimental Marine Biology & Ecology pp. 41 - 48
  • BR Silliman, H Olff, J van de Koppel, TJ Bouma, BK Eriksson, T van der Heide, AH Altieri(2015): Long-distance interactions regulate the structure and resilience of coastal ecosystems Annual Review of Marine Science pp. 139 - 158
  • AJP Smolders, JP Morton, C Angelini, M Derksen-Hooijberg, JN Griffin, T van der Heide, BR Silliman, LPM Lamers(2015): Foundation species’ overlap enhances biodiversity and multifunctionality from the patch to landscape scale in southeastern US salt marshes Proceedings of the Royal Society B pp. 2015 - 0421
  • T van der Heide, Q He, EC Schrack, BR Silliman, A Santoni, J van de Koppel, R Jacobi, R Cope, M Jacobi(2015): Facilitation shifts paradigms and can amplify coastal restoration efforts Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA pp. 14295 - 14300
  • JS Eklof(2015): Effects of antagonistic ecosystem engineers on macrofauna communities in a patchy, intertidal mudflat landscape Journal of Sea Research pp. 55 - 65
  • S Donadi(2015): Multi-scale habitat modification by coexisting ecosystem engineers drives spatial separation of macrobenthic functional groups Oikos pp. 1502 - 1510
  • JA van Gils, J de Fouw, T van der Heide, T Oudman, T Piersma, LRM Maas(2015): Structurally complex seagrass obstructs the sixth sense of a specialized avian molluscivore Animal Behaviour pp. 55 - 67
  • H de Paoli(2015): Processes limiting mussel bed restoration in the Wadden Sea Journal of Sea Research pp. 41 - 49
  • J de Fouw, AJP Smolders, T van der Heide, LPM Lamers, T Piersma, H Olff, KJ van der Reijden, JA van Gils, J van de Koppel, MJA Christianen, M van der Geest, LL Govers(2016): Drought, mutualism breakdown, and landscape-scale degradation of seagrass beds Current Biology pp. 1051 - 1056
  • PC de Ruiter, BR Silliman, J van de Koppel, AH Altieri, H Olff, T van der Heide, M van der Geest, MJA Christianen, T Piersma, C Angelini, HW van der Veer, KJ van der Reijden, JA van Gils, LL Govers, EM van der Zee(2016): How habitat-modifying organisms structure the food web of two coastal ecosystems Proceedings of the Royal Society B pp. 2015 - 2326
  • Y Tang(2016): A tool for easily predicting short-term phosphorus mobilization from flooded soils Ecological Engineering pp. 1 - 6
  • MJA Christianen(2016): Indicators for conservation success: comparing biodiversity and food web indicators in intertidal shellfish reefs Biological Conservation pp. na - na
  • RJ Orth, TJ Bouma, W Man in ‘t Veld, T van der Heide, JP Meffert, JHT Heusinkveld, LL Govers, MM van Katwijk, PCJ van Rijswick(2016): Marine Phytophthora species can hamper conservation and restoration of vegetated coastal ecosystems Proceedings of the Royal Society B pp. 2016 - 0812
  • BI van Tussenbroek(2016): Pollen limitation may be a common Allee effect in marine hydrophilous plants: implications for decline and recovery in seagrasses Oecologia pp. 595 - 609
  • SF Harpenslager(2016): Harnessing facilitation: Why successful re-introduction of Stratiotes aloides requires high densities under high nitrogen loading Biological Conservation pp. 17 - 23
  • BI van Tussenbroek(2016): Non-native seagrass Halophila stipulacea forms dense mats under eutrophic conditions in the Caribbean Journal of Sea Research pp. 1 - 5
  • M Derksen-Hooijberg, AJP Smolders, JN Griffin, J van de Koppel, LPM Lamers, C Angelini, BR Silliman, T van der Heide(2016): A keystone mutualism underpins salt marsh resilience to drought Nature Communications pp. 12473 - 12473
  • PS Maxwell, M de la Torre-Castro, JS Eklöf, BI van Tussenbroek, TJ Bouma, K O’Brien, T van der Heide, C Boström, RKF Unsworth, D Krause-Jensen, MM van Katwijk(2016): The fundamental role of ecological feedback mechanisms in seagrass ecosystems – A review Biological Reviews pp. na - na





Dr. ir. T. van der Heide

Verbonden aan

Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen, Faculteit der Natuurwetenschappen, Wiskunde en Informatica, Institute for Water & Wetland Research (IWWR)


Dr. ir. T. van der Heide


01/01/2013 tot 28/11/2016