SparcS Center

Arie Staal

Arie Staal (1991) is a PhD student at Wageningen University where he is being supervised by Dr. Egbert van Nes and Prof. Marten Scheffer, and by Dr. Stefan Dekker of Utrecht University.

Arie is interested in the resilience and stability of terrestrial ecosystems such as tropical forests and savannas. For his PhD research he specializes in the resilience of the Amazon rainforest. In parts of the Amazon, forest and savanna may be alternative stable states due to positive feedbacks in the ecosystem. One positive feedback occurs when grass cover enhances fire, which in turn favours a grassy ecosystem. Another positive feedback occurs when forest cover enhances rainfall, which in turn favours a forested ecosystem. To unravel the complex dynamics governing this forest-savanna system, Arie aims to bridge dynamical systems theory and empirical results from satellite-data analysis. Gaining understanding of the system dynamics in the Amazon and other tropical regions improves our abilities to prevent self-propagating forest loss when climate change or deforestation reach a tipping point.

Arie holds a BSc and MSc (cum laude) degree in Environmental Sciences from Utrecht University. During his MSc studies, he took part in the Honours Programme of SENSE Research School and was awarded a PhD scholarship “Complex Dynamics in Human-Environment Systems” by SENSE in 2013.


Twitter: @ArieStaal



Zemp, D.C., C.-F. Schleussner, H.M.J. Barbosa, M. Hirota, V. Montade, G. Sampaio, A. Staal, L. Wang-Erlandsson & A. Rammig (2017). Self-amplified Amazon forest loss due to vegetation-atmosphere feedbacks. Nature Communications 8, 14681.

Van Nes, E.H., B.M.S. Arani, A. Staal, B. van der Bolt, B.M. Flores, S. Bathiany & M. Scheffer (2016). What do you mean, 'tipping point'? Trends in Ecology & Evolution 31, 902-904.

Staal, A., S.C. Dekker, C. Xu & E.H. van Nes (2016). Bistability, spatial interaction, and the distribution of tropical forests and savannas. Ecosystems 19, 1080-1091.

Xu, C., S. Hantson, M. Holmgren, E.H. van Nes, A. Staal & M. Scheffer (2016). Remotely sensed canopy height reveals three pantropical ecosystem states. Ecology 97, 2518-2521.

Staal, A. & B.M. Flores (2015). Sharp ecotones spark sharp ideas: comment on “Structural, physiognomic and above-ground biomass variation in savanna–forest transition zones on three continents – how different are co-occurring savanna and forest formations?” by Veenendaal et al. (2015). Biogeosciences 12, 5563–5566.

Staal, A., S.C. Dekker, M. Hirota & E.H. van Nes (2015). Synergistic effects of drought and deforestation on the resilience of the south-eastern Amazon rainforest. Ecological Complexity 22, 65–75.