Prof. Dr.


Vrije Universiteit Brussel
Room 7F407
Pleinlaan 2
1050 Brussels | Belgium


Bram joined the Department of Biology at VUB in 2013 and started up an ecological research group. He is the principal investigator of the Community Ecology lab. The main research focus is to explain distribution patterns of species at different spatial scales. Current research makes use of different model systems, databases and models to test fundamental and more applied ecological questions. Examples of current research lines include:

1. Connectivity, metacommunity ecology and analysis of species distributions across scales

We use island model systems such as ponds, rock pools, moss patches and bromeliads to study how species can coexist in fragmented landscapes. In addition, we also make use of the IUCN database and null models to study the emergence of species distributions at large scales. Mesocosm experiments are used to gain insight into the importance of habitat selection as a driver of colonization. With Nico Koedam, we work on migratory connectivity along the major flyways for wetland birds that travel between Europe and Africa. 

2. Risk spreading strategies in unpredictable environments  

We study how populations can survive in highly disturbed habitats. We specifically look at dispersal and dormancy adaptations and the potential importance of bet hedging strategies using African killifish and pond crustaceans as models.  

3. Ecosystem services of small water bodies

We study the ecosystem processes provided by tank bromeliads in the Neotropics, looking at benefits in terms of pollination of tropical crops and the role of epiphytes as catalysts for biodiversity. 

4. Conservation biology

We work on conservation and the ecological and evolutionary importance of ancient isolated mountains (inselbergs) with projects in Africa and elsewhere in the world. We show that these systems can be important refuges for biodiversity and can interact with the surrounding landscape matrix on ecological and evolutionary time scales.




Buschke, F. T., Coetzer, C., Pinceel, T., Mehlomakhulu, Z., Moreels, N., du Randt, L., & Vanschoenwinkel, B. (2020). Mountains and rocky outcrops as ecological refuges in a high biodiversity working landscape. Biological Conservation, 250.

Thompson, P.L., Guzman, L.M., De Meester, L., Horváth, Z., Ptacnik, R.,  Vanschoenwinkel, B.,  Viana, D.S., Chase, J.M. A process‐based metacommunity framework linking local and regional scale community ecology. Ecology Letters (2020), (SCI: 9.137), Q1

Turner, B., Trekels, H.,  Vandromme, M., Vanschoenwinkel, B. (2020) Prey colonization in freshwater landscapes can be stimulated or inhibited by the proximity of remote predators. Journal of Animal Ecology (SCI: 4.36) Q1 in press

Mwaijengo, G.N., Msigwa, A., Njau, K.N., Brendonck, L., & Vanschoenwinkel, B. (2020). Where does land use matter most? Contrasting land use effects on river quality at different spatial scales. Science of the Total Environment, (SCI: 5.589) Q1

Trekels, H. and Vanschoenwinkel, B. (2019), Both local presence and regional distribution of predator cues modulate prey colonisation in pond landscapes. Ecology Letters 22: 89-97 (SCI: 9.137) Q1

Buschke, F. T., Brendonck, L. & Vanschoenwinkel, B. (2015) Simple mechanistic models can partially explain local but not range-wide co-occurrence of African mammals. Global Ecology and Biogeography 24: 767-773 (SCI: 7.242) Q1

Vanschoenwinkel, B., Buschke, F., Brendonck, L. (2013) Disturbance alters the impact of dispersal on alpha and beta diversity in a natural metacommunity. Ecology 94: 2547–25571 (SCI: 5.175) Q1

A full list of publications can be found on my personal website

All papers are available for download via my Researchgate profile