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Gregory van der Heijden

Gregory van der Heijden

session, year:
2013 1st

Former fellow

Receiving laboratory:
CEC, Centre for Environment and Climate Research, Lund University, Lund

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Download Curriculum Vitae

Mobility project

Modelling nutrient cycling in forest ecosystems with the ForSAFE model – testing the model with an in situ multi-isotopic tracing experiment

Many forest soils in France are acid and nutrient poor. In the context of global change, French forests endure increased external constraints which may be nutritional and/or silvicultural and/or climatic. These constraints may strongly impact the sustainability of nutrient-poor ecosystems. It is thus important to understand and quantify the processes which govern nutrient cycling in these ecosystems to better predict soil fertility changes and help forest managers make sound decisions to sustain these ecosystems. For this purpose, many forest nutrient cycling models have been developed in the past twenty years (ForSAFE, NuCM, MAGIC, etc.). At the European scale, the Lund University in Sweden has developed models for scientific and management use (PROFILE, ForSAFE) integrating soil properties, weathering rate calculation, atmospheric deposition, climate change and silvicultural practice change. However, many fluxes (atmospheric deposition, weathering) and processes (nutrient uptake by trees, nutrient recycling) are yet poorly quantified. These fluxes and processes are important in ecosystems on nutrient-poor soils where no flux, even small, may be neglected. Simulation models are a synthesis of our knowledge and concepts of the functioning of forest ecosystem biogeochemistry. The reliability of model predictions depends on the capacity of the model to reproduce the fluxes and processes. During my PhD, I carried out an in situ multi-isotopic tracing experiment (26Mg, 44Ca, 15N and 2H) in a beech plot of the high resolution SOERE F-ORE-T experimental site (Breuil-Chenue, Burgundy, France). The main objective of my postdoctoral project is to test the ForSAFE model with the results from this experiment, thereby refine current nutrient cycling concepts and improve existing biogeochemical models.

Biography & research interests

After my engineering degree in forest management (20062009) at AgroParisTech-ENGREF in Nancy (France), I was very interested in the sustainability of forest soil fertility facing the 21st century changes: decreasing nutrient atmospheric deposition and increasing pressure of biomass harvest for environmental friendly fuels and materials.I decided to pursue my interests by carrying out a Master’s degree in soil science (2008-2009, MSc Thesis “Modelling the response of a fir tree stand on a base-poor soil in the Vosges Mountains (France) to atmospheric deposition and silviculture change”). I obtained a 5-year junior-scientist position “INRA-CJS” (2009-2014) for my PhD entitled “A multi-isotopic (26Mg, 44Ca and 2H) tracing experiment to better understand nutrient cycling in forest ecosystems” carried out at the Forest Ecosystem Biogeochemistry Lab (INRA Nancy, France). I carried out a post-doctoral project as an AgreenSkills fellow at University of Lunds in Sweden during which I developed a biogeochemical numerical model to be able to simulate Mg and Ca isotope tracers in forest ecosystems. In July 2013, I obtained a permanent research scientist position at INRA in the Forest Ecosystem Biogeochemistry Lab in Nancy (France). My research is focused on major nutrient plant-availability in the soil and the interactions between the solid and liquid phases of the soil.

Selected publications

van der Heijden G, Legout A, Mareschal L, Ranger J, Dambrine E, 2017. Filling the gap in Ca input-output budgets in base-poor forest ecosystems: The contribution of non-crystalline phases evidenced by stable isotopic dilution. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 209, 135-148.

van der Heijden G, Belyazid S, Ranger J, Dambrine E, Legout A, 2017. NutsFor a process-oriented model to simulate nutrient and isotope tracer cycling in forest ecosystems. Environmental Modelling & Software 95, 365-380.

van der Heijden G, Dambrine E, Pollier B, Zeller B, Ranger J, Legout A, 2015. Mg and Ca uptake by roots in relation to depth and allocation to aboveground tissues: results from an isotopic labeling study in a beech forest on base-poor soil. Biogeochemistry 122(2-3): 375-393.

van der Heijden G, Legout A, Pollier B, Ranger J, Dambrine E, 2016. The dynamics of calcium and magnesium inputs by throughfall in a forest ecosystem on base poor soil are very slow and conservative: evidence from an isotopic tracing experiment (Mg-26 and Ca-44). Biogeochemistry, 118, 1-3, 413-442.

van der Heijden G, Legout A, Pollier B, Bréchet C, Ranger J, Dambrine E. 2013. Tracing and modeling preferential flow in a forest soil - Potential impact on nutrient leaching. Geoderma 195-196(0): 12-22.

Awards & patents

2013 DEMOLON fellow of the AFES (Association Française d’Etude des Sols) to attend the 10th Applied Isotope Geochemistry conference in Budapest, Hungry (September 22nd to 27th)

2013 Agreenskills fellow (outgoing fellowship) for a research project with Salim BELYAZID of Lunds Universitet in Sweden: Developing the ForSAFE model to simulate Mg and Ca isotope tracers in forest ecosystems.

Talks in annual meetings


Forest, soil fertility, sustainability, Fagus silvatica, ForSAFE, isotope tracing, calcium, magnesium, modelling