Antwerp ecologists win a prestigious prize


An international team of ecologists, led by the Belgian Jonas Lembrechts, received the W.S. Cooper Award for their research on plant invasions in mountains.

Jonas Lembrechts is a PhD student at Antwerp University and the joint coordinator of a global network called MIREN that studies the effect of climate change and human impact in the mountains. Specifically, this means that certain plant species can now be found in numerous places where they have never been found before. This indicates an indirect influence on vegetation caused by climate change.

The researchers also showed that people can have a direct impact on this phenomenon. We constantly take plants along with us on the soles of our shoes and in the mud on our car tyres. The paper with these findings is the one that earned Lembrechts and his team the W.S. Cooper Award. This research is a significant breakthrough as it demonstrates that the impact on nature of the direct presence of people in the mountains is greater than most people believe.

Ever since 1985, the W.S. Cooper Award is granted yearly by the Ecological Society of America to researchers who make a major contribution related to the distribution of plant species. The American ecologist William Skinner Cooper, who gave his name to the award, was also active in this area. Jonas Lembrechts is the first PhD student ever to have won this prestigious award.