Agroecology Lab - the ecology of food and wood
The Unit of Landscape Ecology and Plant Production Systems was born in 2007 with Professor Jan Bogaert at its cradle. It is one of five laboratories of the Interfaculty School of Bioengineering (EIB). Jan Bogaert being a landscape ecologist, the landscape was considered a complex of interacting ecosystems where farming and forestry are important factors in shaping and changing the landscape over space and time. Charles De Cannière (forestry) and Marjolein Visser (agronomy) joined this new lab right from the start. The aim was to contribute to the improvement of natural resource management by pooling expertise from ecology, agronomy, and forestry. Jan Bogaert's expertise to study landscape transformations was mainly derived from the quantitative analysis of aerial photographs and satellite imagery. The expertise in agronomy and forestry mainly concentrated on farming system analysis, the agroecology of native seed production for the restoration of degraded lands and smaller-scale studies such as the ecophysiology of tree growth. Yet, the challenges faced by our current food, feed, fibre and energy systems becoming ever more prominent and global, we felt linking these landscape questions back to the human dimension of natural resource management was crucial. When Jan Bogaert left the ULB in March 2011, Charles De Cannière and Marjolein Visser took charge of his PhD-students. A new lectureship in tropical agroecology was formulated (vacancy yet to be filled) to take on board even more the social and economic dimensions of the management of natural resources. In the future, our lab will analyse transdisciplinary research questions linking technical and quantitative aspects on the management of natural resources to human wellbeing, social interactions and development economics. In particular, we plan to study this kind of questions and links focussing on agroforestry, in the tropics as well as in Europe. As a consequence, a name change of our lab is due soon! International development cooperation has always been and still is an essential ingredient of our research and education activities. For the moment (2012) we have 15 PhD-students in our lab, and most of them focus on Central, West and North Africa. The lab carries a strong commitment in the management and the teaching of the EIB.