Michiel van Breugel

Science (Environmental Studies)

Associate Professor

Contact No.: +65-6601-3705
Email: michiel.vanbreugel@yale-nus.edu.sg
Website: newforestsandtrees.org/
Website: scholar.google.com/citations?user=5SejyLsAAAAJ&hl=en

View Curriculum Vitae

Associate Professor Michiel van Breugel received his MSc in Forestry and Nature Management in 1997 and his PhD in 2007, both from Wageningen University in the Netherlands.

During his doctoral research, he established a chronosequence of permanent sample plots in secondary forests in southern Mexico, which is now one of the longest-running studies on secondary forest dynamics in the Tropics. As Postdoctoral Fellow at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) in Panama (2007-2013), he co-led the design and established two of the largest long-term field studies of their kind in the Tropics as part of an interdisciplinary project on ecosystem services of tropical forests. Both projects are still running. The first is a secondary forest dynamics (SFD) study in a moist and a dry agricultural landscape with 177 permanent vegetation plots. The second is a 60-hectare reforestation experiment with different combinations of native tree species with contrasting resource acquisition and use strategies. Parallel liana removal and nutrient addition experiments were set up a few years later with international groups of collaborators. This combination of field studies and experiments offer alternative approaches to quantify and scale the influence of environmental conditions, functional composition, interactions and landscape-scale processes on biodiversity and ecosystem processes and services of ‘new forests’ in human-modified landscapes.

Currently, Assoc Prof van Breugel continues to co-lead the secondary forest dynamics study in Panama and related experiments and is a collaborator in the reforestation experiment. Both studies have generated an increasing number of collaborations with colleagues from different disciplines. In Singapore, he leads a collaborative and long-term study, with colleagues from the Environmental Research group at Yale-NUS and other institutions, on the distribution, regeneration and ecosystem functions of mangrove forests. Assoc Prof van Breugel collaborates with the NUS School of Design and Environment and the National Parks Board on research on the ecosystem functions of urban vegetation and trees and is Co-investigator of the new Madagascar-centered project, “Resilient blue-green infrastructures – enabling transformation towards livable and climate-resilient flood-prone landscapes of tropical cities” which is part of the ETH-Singapore Centre’s ‘Future Cities Lab Global’ programme.

Assoc Prof van Breugel’s research focuses on the ecology of forest and trees in human-modified landscapes. He is broadly interested in understanding how human land-use and ecological processes interact to shape plant community dynamics and affect the provision of ecosystem services in and across different landscapes. His work focuses on the mechanisms and processes that determine the capacity of regrowing forests, which now encompass over 50 percent of the world’s tropical forests, to recover from human-caused drivers of ecosystem change. He hopes that his work will provide information for the effective restoration, management and conservation of biodiversity and ecosystem services in transformed landscapes. Within this framework, Assoc Prof van Breugel uses approaches from population, community and plant functional trait ecology to evaluate the dynamics of plant communities and populations and their drivers and works with complementary study systems that range from controlled experiments to long-term monitoring of natural succession.

Assoc Prof van Breugel’s main research sites are in the central Panama Canal Watershed, in Singapore and Antananariva, Madagascar. In Panama, he co-leads one of the largest long-term secondary forest dynamics (SFD) study in the Tropics and related experimental studies on the role of lianas, N2 fixing tree species and soil nutrients on the productivity and succession of secondary forests. An important focus of his research in Panama and Singapore is on how environmental variables and functional traits jointly moderate the distribution and dynamics of plant species in forested ecosystems. Related topics he is interested in are the effects of the increasing frequency of exceptionally long and intense dry seasons on the potential of secondary forest to sequester carbon and preserve tree diversity, and the use of data from SFD studies for the development of guidelines for tree species selection in the context of forest restoration projects. Another line of research is the provision of ecosystem services of forests and trees along urban-rural gradients. Assoc Prof van Breugel is part of different interdisciplinary research teams that address this topic in projects in Panama, Singapore and Madagascar. Assoc Prof van Breugel participates in various international collaborative studies, one of which is a large network of secondary forests studies from a wide range of tropical regions.


Lai, H.R., D. Craven, J.S. Hall, F.K. C. Hui & M. van Breugel (2021). Successional syndromes of saplings in tropical secondary forests emerge from environment-dependent trait–demography relationships. Accepted for publication in Ecology Letters.

Estrada-Villegas, S., J.S. Hall, M. van Breugel, S. Schnitcher (2021). Lianas do not reduce tree biomass accumulation in young successional tropical dry forests. Oecologia, published online. doi: 10.1007/s00442-021-04877-z.

Epihov, D.Z., K. Saltonstall, S.A. Batterman, L.O. Hedin, J.S. Hall, M. van Breugel, J.R. Leake, D.J. Beerling (2021). Legume-microbiome interactions unlock mineral nutrients during tropical forest succession. PNAS 118 (11) e2022241118. doi: 10.1073/pnas.2022241118.

Boyle. M.J.W., T.R. Bishop, S.H. Luke, M. van Breugel, T.A. Evans, M. Pfeifer, T.M. Fayle, S.R. Hardwick, R.l. Lane-Shaw, K.M. Yusah, I.C. R. Ashford, O.S. Ashford, E. Garnett, E.C. Turner, C. L. Wilkinson, A.Y.C. Chung & R.M. Ewers (2021). Localised climate change defines ant communities in human-modified tropical landscapes. Functional Ecology, published online. Doi. 10.1111/1365-2435.13737.


Boeschoten, L.E., M. van Breugel, M. Bailon, J. Balbuena, M. Nuñez, A. Cerezo & J.S. (2020). Framework species approach proves robust in restoring forest on fire prone invasive grass: A case study from Panama. Journal of Sustainable Forestry, published online. doi: 10.1080/10549811.2020.1746915.

Estrada-Villegas, S., J.S. Hall, M. van Breugel, S. Schnitzer (2020). Lianas reduce biomass accumulation in early successional tropical forests. Ecology 102(5): e02989. doi: 10.1002/ecy.2989.

Lai. H.R.1, K.Y. Chong, A.T.K. Yee, H.T.W. Tan & M. van Breugel (2020). Identifying functional traits that moderate plant recruitment in a wind-disturbed tropical lowland rainforest. Journal of Ecology 108(4): 1322-1333. doi: 10.1111/1365-2745.13347.


Levy-Varon, J.H., S.A. Batterman, D. Medvigy, X. Xu, J.S. Hall, M. van Breugel & L.O. Hedin (2019). Tropical carbon sink accelerated by symbiotic dinitrogen fixation. Nature Communications 10(1): 1-8.

Kattge et al [and 729 others, including M. van Breugel] (2019) TRY plant trait database–enhanced coverage and open access. Global Change Biology 26(10): 119-188. doi: 10.1111/gcb.14904.

Adams, B.J., E.M. Gora, M. van Breugel, S. Estrada-Villegas, S.A. Schnitzer, J.S. Hall & S.P. Yanoviak (2019). Do lianas shape ant communities in an early successional tropical forest? Biotropica 51(6): 885-893.

Estrada-Villegas, S., M. Bailón, J.S. Hall, S.A. Schnitzer, B.L. Turner, T.T. Caughlin & M. van Breugel (2019). Edaphic factors and initial conditions influence successional trajectories of early regenerating tropical dry forests. Journal of Ecology, early view. doi: 10.1111/1365-2745.13263.

Yee, A.T.K., H.R. Lai, K.Y. Chong, L. Neo, C.Y. Koh, S.Y. Tan, W.W. Seah, J. Loh, R. Lim, M. van Breugel & H.T.W. Tan. Hugh (2019). Short-term responses in a secondary tropical forest after a severe windstorm event. Journal of Vegetation Science 30: 720-731. doi: 10.1111/jvs.12753.

Poorter [and 79 others, including M. van Breugel] (2019). Wet and dry tropical forests show opposite successional pathways in wood density but converge over time. Nature Ecology & Evolution 3: 928-934. doi: 10.1038/s41559-019-0882-6.

Rozendaal, D.M.A. [and 76 others, including M. van Breugel] (2019). Biodiversity resilience of Neotropical secondary forests. Science Advances 5(3): eaau3114. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.aau3114.

Van Breugel, M., D. Craven, H.R. Lai, M. Baillon, B.L. Turner & J.S. Hall (2019). Soil nutrients and dispersal limitation shape compositional variation in secondary tropical forests across multiple scales. Journal of Ecology 107(2): 566-581. doi: 10.1111/1365-2745.13126.

Mayoral, C., M. van Breugel, B.L. Turner, G.P. Asner, N.R., Vaughn & Jefferson S. Hall (2019). Effect of microsite quality and species composition on tree growth: A semi-empirical modeling approach. Forest Ecology and Management 432, 534-545. doi. 10.1016/j.foreco.2018.09.047

Ng, L.F., L.T. Ng, M. van Breugel, B. Halliwell & J. Gruber (2019). Mitochondrial DNA damage does not determine C. elegans lifespan. Frontiers in Genetics – Genetics of Aging. doi: 10.3389/fgene.2019.00311.


Batterman, S, J.S. Hall, B. Turner, L. Hedin, J. K. LaHaela Walter, P. Sheldon & M. van Breugel (2018). Phosphatase activity and nitrogen fixation reflect species differences not nutrient trading or nutrient balance across tropical rainforest trees. Ecology Letters 21: 1486–1495. doi. 10.1111/ele.13129.

Craven, D.J., J.S. Hall , G.P. Berlyn, M.S. Ashton & M. van Breugel (2018). Habitat filtering limits functional diversity during succession in a wet tropical secondary forest. Journal of Vegetation Science 29(3): 511-520. doi. 10.1111/jvs.12632.

Gei, M. [and 68 others, including M. van Breugel](2018). Legume abundance along successional and rainfall gradients in Neotropical forests. Nature Ecology and Evolution 2: 1104–1111. doi. 10.1038/s41559-018-0559-6.

Lai, H.R.1, J.S. Hall, S.A. Batterman, B. Turner & M. van Breugel (2018). Nitrogen fixer abundance has no effect on biomass recovery during tropical secondary forest succession. Journal of Ecology 106(4): 1415-1427. doi: 10.1111/1365-2745.12979.


Lai, H.R.1, J.S. Hall, B. Turner & M. van Breugel (2017). Liana effects on biomass dynamics strengthen during secondary forest succession. Ecology 98(4): 1062-1070. doi: 10.1002/ecy.1734.

Muscarella, R., M. Lohbeck, M. Martínez-Ramos, L. Poorter, J.E. Rodríguez-Velázquez, M. van Breugel & F. Bongers (2017). Demographic drivers of functional composition dynamics. Ecology 98: 2743-2750. doi: 10.1002/ecy.1990.

Mayoral, C., M. van Breugel, A. Cerezo & J.S. Hall (2017). Survival and growth of five Neotropical timber species in monocultures and mixtures. Forest Ecology and Management 403: 1-11. doi: 10.1016/j.foreco.2017.08.002.

Rozendaal, D.M.A. [and 18 others, including M. van Breugel] (2017)]. Demographic drivers of aboveground biomass dynamics during secondary succession in Neotropical dry and wet forests. Ecosystems 20(2): 340-353. doi: 10.1007/s10021-016-0029-4.


Caughlin, T.T., S.J. Graves, G.P. Asner, M. van Breugel, J.S. Hall, R.E. Martin, M.S. Ashton, S.A. Bohlman (2016). A single hyperspectral image can accurately predict growth rates of twenty tropical tree species. Ecological Applications 26(8): 2367-2373. doi: 10.1002/eap.1436.

Chazdon, R.L., [and 59 others, including M. van Breugel] (2016). Carbon sequestration potential of second-growth forest regeneration in the Latin American tropics. Science Advances 2: e1501639. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.1501639.

Poorter, L. [and 64 others, including M. van Breugel] (2016). Biomass resilience of Neotropical secondary forests. Nature 530: 211–214. doi: 10.1038/nature16512.


Barry, K.E., S. A. Schnitzer, M. van Breugel & J. S. Hall (2015). Rapid Liana Colonization and Community Development along a Secondary Forest Chronosequence. Biotropica, 47(6): 672–680. doi: 10.1111/btp.12259.

Craven, D., J.S. Hall, G.P. Berlyn, M.S. Ashton & M. van Breugel (2015). Changing gears during succession: shifting functional strategies in young tropical secondary forests. Oecologia 179: 293-305. doi: 10.1007/s00442-015-3339-x.

Norden, N., H.A. Angarita, F. Bongers, M. Martínez-Ramos, I. Granzow-de la Cerda, M. van Breugel, E. Lebrija-Trejos, J.A. Meave, J. Vandermeer, G.B. Williamson, B. Finegan, R. Mesquita, R.L. Chazdon (2015). Successional dynamics in Neotropical forests are as uncertain as they are predictable. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 112: 8013-8018.

Letcher, S.G., [and 55 others, including M. van Breugel] (2015). Environmental gradients and the evolution of successional habitat specialization: a test case with 14 Neotropical forest sites. Journal of Ecology 103: 1276–1290. doi: 10.1111/1365-2745.12435.

van Breugel P., R. Kindt, J.-P.B. Lillesø, M. van Breugel (2015). Environmental Gap Analysis to Prioritize Conservation Efforts in Eastern Africa. PLoS ONE 10(4): e0121444.

Falster D.S., (and 95 others, including M. van Breugel] (2015). BAAD: a Biomass And Allometry Database for woody plants. Ecology 96(5): 1445.


Lohbeck, M., L. Poorter, M. Martínez-Ramos, J. Rodriguez-Velázquez, M. van Breugel, F. Bongers (2014). Changing drivers of species dominance during tropical forest succession. Functional Ecology 28: 1052–1058.


Batterman, S.A., L.O. Hedin, M. van Breugel, J. Ransijn, D.J. Craven & J.S. Hall (2013). Key role of symbiotic dinitrogen fixation in tropical forest secondary succession. Nature 502: 224–227.

Van Breugel, M., J.S. Hall, D.J. Craven, M. Bailon, A. Hernandez, M. Abbene, & P. van Breugel (2013). Succession of ephemeral secondary forests and their limited role for the conservation of floristic diversity in a human-modified tropical landscape. PLoS ONE 8(12): e82433.

Zimmermann, B., A. Zimmermann, H.L. Scheckenbach, T.Schmid, J.S. Hall & M. van Breugel (2013). Changes in rainfall interception along a secondary forest succession gradient in lowland Panama. Hydrology and Earth System Sciences 17: 4659-4670.

Asner, G.P., J. Mascaro, C. Anderson, D.E. Knapp, R.E. Martin, T. Kennedy-Bowdoin, M. van Breugel, S. Davies, J.S. Hall, H.C. Muller-Landau, C. Potvin, W. Sousa, J. Wright and E. Bermingham (2013). High fidelity national carbon mapping for resource management and REDD+. Carbon Balance and Management 8: article number 7.


Lohbeck, M., L. Poorter, H. Paz, L. Pla, M. van Breugel, M. Martínez-Ramos & F. Bongers (2012). Functional diversity changes during tropical forest succession. Perspectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution and Systematics 14 (2): 89-96.

Letcher, S., R. Chazdon, A. Andrade, F. Bongers, M. van Breugel, B. Finegan, S. Laurance, R. Mesquita, M. Martínez-Ramos & G. Williamson (2012). Phylogenetic community structure during succession: evidence from three Neotropical forest sites. Perspectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution and Systematics 14(2): 79-87.

Van Breugel, M., P. van Breugel, P. Jansen, M. Martínez-Ramos & F. Bongers (2012). The relative importance of above- versus belowground competition for tree growth during early succession of a tropical moist forest. Plant Ecology 213 (1): 25-34.

Asner, G. P. , J. Mascaro, H.C. Muller-Landau, G. Vieilledent, R.Vaudry, M. Rasamoelina, J. Hall & M. van Breugel (2012). A Universal Airborne LiDAR Approach for Tropical Forest Carbon Mapping. Oecologia 168: 1147–1160.


Van Breugel, M., J. Ransijn, D.J. Craven, F. Bongers & J.S. Hall (2011). Estimating carbon stock in secondary forests: Decisions and uncertainties associated with allometric biomass models. Forest Ecology and Management 262(8): 1648-1657.

Van Breugel, M., J.S. Hall, D.J. Craven, T.G. Gregoire, A. Park, D.H. Dent, M.H. Wishnie, E. Mariscal, J. Deago, D. Ibarra, N. Cedeño & M.S. Ashton (2011). Early growth and survival of 49 tropical tree species across sites differing in soil fertility and rainfall in Panama. Forest Ecology and Management 261: 1580-1589.

Visser, M.D., E. Jongejans, M. van Breugel, P.A. Zuidema, Y.-Y. Chen, A. R. Kassim & H.de Kroon (2011). Strict mast fruiting for a tropical dipterocarp tree: A demographic cost-benefit analysis of delayed reproduction and seed predation. Journal of Ecology 99: 1033–1044.

Mascaro, J., G. P. Asner, H.C. Muller-Landau, M. van Breugel, J.S. Hall, & K. Dahlin (2011). Controls over aboveground forest carbon density on Barro Colorado Island, Panama. Biogeosciences 8: 1615-1629,

Paul, Gillian S. F. Montagnini, G.P. Berlyn, D.J. Craven, M. van Breugel & J.S. Hall (2011). Comparisons of foliar herbivory and leaf defense traits among native tree species in a young plantation of Central Panama. New Forests 3: 69-87.

Neumann-Cosel, L., B. Zimmermann, J.S. Hall, M.van Breugel & H. Elsenbeer (2011). Soil carbon dynamics under young tropical secondary forests on former pastures – A case study from Panama. Forest Ecology and Management 261: 1625-1633.

Hassler, S., B. Zimmermann, M. van Breugel, J.S. Hall & H. Elsenbeer (2011). Recovery of saturated hydraulic conductivity under secondary succession on former pasture in the humid tropics. Forest Ecology and Management 261: 1634-1642.

Hall, J.S., B.E. Love, E.J. Garen, J.L. Slusser, K. Saltonstall, S.Mathias, M. van Breugel, D.Ibarra, E.W. Bork, D. Spaner, M.H. Wishnie & M.S. Ashton (2011). Tree plantations on farms: Evaluating growth and potential for success. Forest Ecology and Management 261: 1675-1683.


Park, A.D., M. van Breugel, M.S. Ashton, M. Wishnie, E.Mariscal, J.Deago, D. Ibarra, N. Cedeño, & J.S. Hall (2010). Local and regional environmental variation influences the growth of tropical trees in selection trials in the Republic of Panama. Forest Ecology and Management 260: 12-21.


Brienen, R.J.W., E. Lebrija-Trejos, M. van Breugel, E.A. Pérez-García, F. Bongers, J.A. Meave & M. Martínez-Ramos (2009) The Potential of tree rings for the study of forest succession in southern Mexico. Biotropica 41: 186-195.

Chazdon, R.L., C.A. Harvey, O. Komar, D.M. Griffith, B.G. Ferguson, M. Martínez-Ramos, H. Morales, R. Nigh, L. Soto-Pinto, M. van Breugel & S.M. Philpott (2009). Beyond reserves: A research agenda for conserving biodiversity in human-modified tropical landscapes. Biotropica 41: 142-153.


Harvey, C.A., O. Komar, R. Chazdon, B.G. Ferguson, B. Finegan, D.M. Griffith, M. Martínez-Ramos, H. Morales, R. Nigh, L. Soto-Pinto, M. Van Breugel & M. Wishnie (2008). Integrating agricultural landscapes with biodiversity conservation in the Mesoamerican hotspot. Conservation Biology 22: 815.

López-Toledo, L., M. Martínez, M. van Breugel & F.J. Sterck (2008). Soil and light effects on the sapling performance of the shade-tolerant species Brosimum alicastrum (Moraceae) in a Mexican tropical rain forest. Journal of Tropical Ecology 24: 629–637.


Dekker, M., M. van Breugel & F. J. Sterck (2007). Effective height development of four co-occurring species in the gap-phase regeneration of Douglas fir monocultures under nature-oriented conversion. Forest Ecology and Management 238: 189-198, doi: 10.1016/j.foreco.2006.10.012.

Chazdon, R. L., S. Letcher, M. van Breugel, M. Martínez-Ramos, F. Bongers & B. Finegan (2007). Rates of change in tree communities of secondary Neotropical forests following major disturbances. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B 362: 273-289.

Van Breugel, M., F. Bongers & M. Martínez-Ramos (2007). Species Dynamics during early secondary forest succession: recruitment, mortality and species turnover. Biotropica 39: 610-619.


Van Breugel, M., M. Martínez-Ramos & F. Bongers (2006). Community dynamics during early secondary succession in Mexican tropical rain forests. Journal of Tropical Ecology 22: 663-674.

Ecology & Ecosystems
Data Science for the Environment
Ecological Restoration
Quantitative Reasoning
Scientific Inquiry