PLECO’s mission statement is: to improve our fundamental understanding of the impact of global changes on plants and ecosystems at different hierarchical levels of organization so that we can simulate and predict their responses under future conditions.

We want: (i) to conduct research that is of high relevance and in an international setting; (ii) to create a positive and constructive atmosphere to motivate our students and colleague researchers; (iii) to train group members to become independent, critical, yet productive scientists that are competitive when they leave our research group.

The research group of Plants and Ecosystems, Ecology in a time of change (PLECO) was created in 1975 by Prof. Ivan Impens. Since 2000 Prof. Reinhart Ceulemans is leading the research group, that has grown from 13 full-time persons in 1990 to more than 50 full-time persons at present.

PLECO has four permanent professors who each specialize in different topics, but nonetheless collaborate actively in others.

The overarching theme of the research group is the study of the effects of global changes – in the broadest meaning of the term – on plants and vegetations. We realize this overall aim a.o. by studying responses of plants and vegetations to the (sometimes manipulated) abiotic environment over a continuum of different spatial scales (ranging from the individual leaf to the continent). As much as possible, original experimental research is strengthened by coupling to existing or newly developed simulation models or to statistical meta-analysis of the related literature. PLECO research currently spans the entire gradients of climate and management intensity, including projects in tundra, deserts, temperate grasslands, temperate and tropical forests, but also in intensively managed agricultural crops and SRC plantations.

The group has an extensive and long-standing experience with the study of a wide range of sub-disciplines in the domain of ecology – in particular the ecology of plants and vegetations – and in the domain of biogeochemistry,  in particular the cycling of carbon and its interactions with water and nitrogen.