Invitation for joint research in herbaceous vegetation

Prepared by Martin Wassen

This invitation was published in the IAVS Bulletin 2021/1 (

Hi, my name is Martin Wassen and I invite vegetation scientists to participate in joint research about plant diversity and nutrient availability.

My work focuses on herbaceous ecosystems and one of my passions is the relationships between plant diversity and nutrient stoichiometry. I published several papers on that subject (see below). Up to now, I have built up a dataset of 1038 plots across Europe in which vegetation recordings and C, N, P and K contents in above ground biomass have been measured.

At the start of the Covid pandemic I thought about how to reach out to fellow vegetation scientists and plant ecologists and asked Dutch colleagues to join. This was successful and we succeeded to expand the dataset in 2020 by one third (from 673 to 1038 datapoints). However, the dataset is biased towards northwestern Europe (especially the Netherlands (58%) and towards wet and moist grasslands, fens and bogs. Now, I welcome samples from all over the globe (as long as they are taken in herbaceous ecosystems), in particular samples from other countries than the Netherlands, different climate zones and dryer habitats.

My request: The method is very simple. Vegetation scientists making a relevé in a herbaceous vegetation are asked to next to the relevé clip above-ground vegetation in a representative square of 30*30 cm. They are requested to air-dry the sample(s) and send it by surface mail to me.

My offer: I oven-dry the samples and determine C, N, P and K concentrations in the lab. The results and interpretation of the nutrient status are given to the participant and she/he is free to use the data in her/his own research project. Next, I add the data to the existing database and at the end of 2021 we statistically analyze the data and couple them to species trait data or geographic and environmental variables. This offers great opportunities for a nice research paper to be published together and I invite each participant to co-author such a publication.

Interested? Send me an e-mail and we will discuss further details. I am currently preparing a user friendly app that enables participants to easily upload the necessary information that goes along with the relevé. If you like we can also do it in the old fashioned way: on paper or digitally via a form.

With kind regards,

Martin Wassen

(email:, URL:


  • Wassen, M.J., Schrader, J., van Dijk, J. & Eppinga, M.B. (2021) Phosphorus fertilization is eradicating the niche of northern Eurasia’s threatened plant species. Nature Ecology and Evolution, 5, 67-73.
  • Fujita, Y., Olde Venterink, H., Van Bodegom, P.M., Douma, J.C., Heil, G., Hölzel, N., Jabłońska, E., Kotowski, W., Okruszko, T., Pawlikowski, P., De Ruiter, P.C. & Wassen, M.J. (2014) Low investment in sexual reproduction threatens plants adapted to phosphorus limitation. Nature, 505, 82-86.
  • Wassen, M.J., Olde Venterink, H., Lapshina, E.D. & Tanneberger, F. (2005) Endangered plants persist under phosphorus limitation. Nature, 437, 547-550.

Brief personal summary: Martin Wassen (1957) is professor in Environmental Sciences. He is head of the research group Environmental Sciences and was head of the Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development (2007-2016) at the Faculty of Geosciences, Utrecht University.  He has published c. 150 articles in refereed journals including Nature, PNAS, Ecology and The American Naturalist.