Landscape Ecology

Dr. Thorsten Balke


Landscape Ecology Group

Room W2 2-244

Department of Biology, Earth and Environmental Sciences

University of Oldenburg
26111 Oldenburg


Tel. ++ 49 (0)441 798 3258
Fax ++ 49 (0)441 798 5659

email: thorsten.balke(at)

 Thorsten Balke is a member of the project BEFmate.


I am a physical geographer (Dipl.-Geogr., Leibniz University Hannover, Germany) and coastal scientist (PhD, Radboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands) with a focus on mangrove and salt marsh ecosystems. My PhD research included experiments with mesocosms and hydrodynamic flumes at the National University of Singapore and the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research, fieldwork in Thailand, Singapore and New Zealand, GIS and modelling studies.

I have broad interest in the interaction between ecology and geomorphology (biogeomorphology) to understand landscape evolution and biodiversity and to better protect and manage dynamic biogeomorphic ecosystems such as salt marshes, mangroves, dunes or river floodplains. I am currently working as a Postdoc within the BEFmate project.

Follow me at twitter and google scholar. I am also a member of the IUCN Mangrove Specialist Group.

Biogeomorphic landscapes, some examples:



Mangrove pioneer vegetation at low tide, Thailand.


BEFmate: Biodiversity effects on ecosystem functioning across marine and terrestrial ecosystems

I am currently working on a large scale experiment in the Waddensea within the BEFmate project. Apart from coordinating the joint fieldwork and the reporting during the construction and monitoring phase, I am interested in the colonization patterns of salt marsh pioneers on the islands vs. the plots within the saltmarsh. I will also monitor the sedimentation/erosion and our working group is responsible for all vegetation surveys.



12 experimental islands, each with 3 height levels. 6 islands are filled with sediment and hence open for new colonization, 6 are planted with lower saltmarsh vegetation at all 3 levels.



At the same heights, we installed plots with the same treatments within the saltmarsh for comparison.


Peer reviewed journal publications:

Balke T and Friess DA (2015) Geomorphic knowledge for mangrove restoration: a pan-tropical categorization. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms. abstract

Corenblit D, Baas A, Balke T, Bouma T, Fromard F, Garófano-Gómez V, González E, Gurnell AM, Hortobágyi B, Julien F, Kim D, Lambs L, Stallins JA, Steiger J, Tabacchi E and Walcker R (2015) Engineer pioneer plants respond to and affect geomorphic constraints similarly along water–terrestrial interfaces world-wide. Global Ecology and Biogeography. abstract

Wesenbeeck BK, Balke T, van Eijk P, Tonneijck F, Siry HY, Rudianto ME, Winterwerp JC (2015) Aquaculture induced erosion of tropical coastlines throws coastal communities back into poverty. Ocean & Coastal Management, 116. abstract

Hu Z, van Belzen J, van der Wal D, Balke T, Wang ZB, Stive M, Bouma TJ (2015) Windows of Opportunity for saltmarsh vegetation establishment on bare tidal flats: the importance of temporal and spatial variability in hydrodynamic forcing. J. Geophys. Res. Biogeosci., 120. abstract

Balke T, Swales A, Lovelock CE, Herman PMJ, Bouma TJ (2015) Limits to seaward expansion of mangroves: translating physical disturbance mechanisms into seedling survival gradients. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 467. abstract

Balke T, Herman PMJ, Bouma TJ (2014) Critical transitions in disturbance-driven ecosystems: identifying Windows of Opportunity for recovery. Journal of Ecology, 102. abstract

Bouma, T.J., van Belzen, J., Balke, T., Zhu, Z., Airoldi, L., Blight, A., Davies, A.J., Hawkins, S.J., Hoggart, S.P.G., Lara, J.L., Maza, M., Ondiviela, B., Skov, M.W., Strain, E.M., Thompson, R.C., Yang, S., Zanutigh, B., Zhang, L., & Herman, P.M.J. (2014). Identifying knowledge gaps hampering application of intertidal habitats in coastal protection: knowns & steps to take. Coastal Engineering, 87. abstract

Balke T, Webb EL., van den Elzen E, Galli D, Herman PMJ, Bouma TJ (2013) Seedling establishment in a dynamic sedimentary environment: A conceptual framework using mangroves. Journal of Applied Ecology, 50. open source

Balke T, Bouma TJ, Herman PMJ, Horstman E, Sudtongkong C and Webb EL (2013) Cross-shore gradients of physical disturbance in mangroves: Implications for seedling establishment. Biogeosciences 10. open source

Van der Stocken T, De Ryck DJR, Balke T, Bouma TJ, Dahdouh-Guebas F and Koedam N (2013) The role of wind in hydrochorous mangrove propagule dispersal. Biogesciences 10. open source

Bouma TJ, Temmerman S, van Duren LA, Martini E, Vandenbruwaene W, Callaghan DP, Balke T, Biermans G, Klaassen PC, van Steeg P, Dekker F, van de Koppel J, de Vries MB, Herman PMJ (2012) Organism traits determine the strength of scale-dependent bio-geomorphic feedbacks: a flume study on three intertidal plant species. Geomorphology 180-181. abstract

Balke T, Klassen PC, Garbutt A, van der Wal D, Herman PMJ, Bouma TJ (2012) Conditional outcome of ecosystem engineering: A case study on tussocks of the salt marsh pioneer Spartina anglica. Geomorphology 153-154. abstract

Friess DA, Krauss K, Horstman E, Balke T, Bouma T, Galli D and Webb EL (2012) Are all intertidal wetlands created equal? Bottlenecks, thresholds and knowledge gaps to saltmarsh and mangrove ecosystems. Biological Reviews 87. abstract

Balke T, Bouma TJ, Horstman EM, Webb EL, Erftemeijer PLA, Herman PMJ (2011) Windows of opportunity: thresholds to mangrove seedling establishment on tidal flats. Marine Ecology Progress Series 440, Feature Article. open source

Vandenbruwaene W, Temmerman S, Bouma TJ, Klaassen PC, de Vries MB, Callaghan DP, van Steeg P, Dekker F, van Duren LA, Martini E, Balke T, Biermans G, Schoelynck J, Meire P (2011) Flow interaction with dynamic vegetation patches: Implications for biogeomorphic evolution of a tidal landscape. Journal of Geophysical Research 116. abstract