Below you can find information on my most important research topics. Using current observational knowledge on changing species distributions and abundances, I try to identify interesting plant study systems to use in mesocosm experiments. In this way I aim to further expand fundamental knowledge on biotic interactions of plant species in a global change context. 

Determinants of plant-soil feedback variation 

Plant-soil feedbacks - the indirect effects of individual plants on next generations of plants via the conditioning of soil communities - are important drivers of vegetation succession and plant community dynamics. I am especially interested in the roles generalist and specialist natural enemies play in plant-soil feedback variation in grassland ecosystems, and how these roles depend on the structure and diversity of the plant communities. I have worked on this topic during my time at the University of Konstanz (2019-2022) and am continuing this work at Wageningen University and Research (2022- present).

Key publications:

 Wilschut, R. A., Hume, B. C. C., Mamonova, E. & van Kleunen, M. (2023) Plant–soil feedback effects on conspecific and heterospecific successors of annual and perennial Central European grassland plants are correlated. Nature Plants, 9, 1057-1066.

Wilschut, R. A., W. H. van der Putten, P. Garbeva, P. Harkes, W. Konings, P. Kulkarni, H. Martens, and S. Geisen. 2019. Root traits and belowground herbivores relate to plant–soil feedback variation among congeners. Nature Communications 10:1564. 

Drought and warming effects on plant-soil interactions

Climate change exposes terrestrial plant communities to increasing temperatures and more regularly occurring periods of drought.  Drought and warming directly affect plant performance, but also affect the structure and functioning of soil communities. In several experimental projects, including plant-soil feedback studies, I try to increase the understanding on how these climate change factors alter the interactions between plants and their associated soil communities, and how this affects plant performance.

Key publications:

Buchenau N., van Kleunen M., Wilschut R.A. 2022 Direct and legacy-mediated drought effects on plant performance are species-specific and depend on soil community composition. Oikos 2022, e08959.

Wilschut R.A. & van Kleunen M. 2021. Drought alters plant‐soil feedback effects on biomass allocation but not on plant performance. Plant and Soil 462: 285-296. 

Novel plant communities 

Plan communities are increasingly becoming re-assembled due to the introduction of alien plant species from other continents, latitudinal and altitudinal plant range expansions in response to climate change, as well as redistributions of plant species within their native range. In these 'novel plant communities', both native and non-native plants will be exposed to non-coevolved competitors and natural enemies, leading to the establishment of novel interactions. During my PhD I have focused on novel interactions between plants and soil organisms, particularly soil nematodes, following climate-change driven range expansion.

Key publications:

Wilschut, R. A., S. Geisen, H. Martens, O. Kostenko, M. de Hollander, F. C. ten Hooven, C. Weser, L. B. Snoek, J. Bloem, D. Caković, T. Čelik, K. Koorem, N. Krigas, M. Manrubia, K. S. Ramirez, M. A. Tsiafouli, B. Vreš, and W. H. van der Putten. 2019. Latitudinal variation in soil nematode communities under climate warming-related range-expanding and native plants. Global Change Biology 25: 2714-2726.

Wilschut, R. A., J. C. P. Silva, P. Garbeva, and W. H. van der Putten. 2017. Belowground plant–herbivore interactions vary among climate-driven range-expanding plant species with different degrees of novel chemistry. Frontiers in Plant Science 8.