My research aims at understanding the structure, dynamics and functioning of old-growth grasslands, i.e. species-rich ancient grass-dominated ecosystems that have escaped both ploughing and overgrazing (1). This is a world in peril. Over the last two centuries, human settlements, population growth and increasing demand of commodities, intensive farming practices and poor grazing management have caused an unprecedented rise in the destruction rate of these ecosystems. The different facets of this devastation include the decimation of large native herbivores (bison as an example), the increase of shrub coverage at the expense of perennial grasses, soil erosion and desertification.
My main expertise covers mountain grasslands although I also had the chance to study Australian tropical semiarid grasslands. I am particularly interested in examining
(i) the consequences of climate and land use change on old-growth grasslands
(ii) the options to preserve or restore the sustainable management of these ecosystems.
My current research addresses the biodiversity dynamics of mountain grasslands in relation to snow cover / climate change and grazing management. More specificaly, I am currently investigating the long-term greening of high-elevation ecosystems in temperate mountains including its spatial and temporal variability and its main drivers.
As for other ecosystems, we urgently need to develop a transdisciplinary, whole-system approach of these grasslands to better understand the interactions between biodiversity, soil, climate, biogeochemical cycling and human activities.
(1) Veldman JW, et al. 2015. Toward an old-growth concept for grasslands, savannas, and woodlands. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 13:154-162.