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Michiel van Breugel

Associate Professor of Environmental Science, National University of Singapore

Michiel van Breugel is an associate research professor in environmental science. His research focuses on the ecology of forest and trees in human-modified landscapes. He is broadly interested in understanding how human land-use and ecological processes interact to shape plant community dynamics and affect the provision of ecosystem services in and across different landscapes. His work focuses on the mechanisms and processes that determine the capacity of regrowing forests, which now encompass over 50 percent of the world’s tropical forests, to recover from human-caused drivers of ecosystem change. He hopes that his work will provide information for the effective restoration, management and conservation of biodiversity and ecosystem services in transformed landscapes. Within this framework, van Breugel uses approaches from population, community and plant functional trait ecology to evaluate the dynamics of plant communities and populations and their drivers and works with complementary study systems that range from controlled experiments to long-term monitoring of natural succession.

Van Breugel’s main research sites are in the central Panama Canal Watershed, in Singapore and Antananariva, Madagascar. In Panama, he co-leads one of the largest long-term secondary forest dynamics (SFD) study in the Tropics and related experimental studies on the role of lianas, N2 fixing tree species and soil nutrients on the productivity and succession of secondary forests. An important focus of his research in Panama and Singapore is on how environmental variables and functional traits jointly moderate the distribution and dynamics of plant species in forested ecosystems. Related topics he is interested in are the effects of the increasing frequency of exceptionally long and intense dry seasons on the potential of secondary forest to sequester carbon and preserve tree diversity, and the use of data from SFD studies for the development of guidelines for tree species selection in the context of forest restoration projects. Another line of research is the provision of ecosystem services of forests and trees along urban-rural gradients. Van Breugel is part of different interdisciplinary research teams that address this topic in projects in Panama, Singapore and Madagascar. Van Breugel participates in various international collaborative studies, one of which is a large network of secondary forests studies from a wide range of tropical regions.


  • –present
    Associate Professor of Environmental Science, National University of Singapore