About CAVElab

At CAVElab, we study vegetation dynamics, carbon and water cycling of terrestrial ecosystems. CAVElab has a strong focus on tropical forest ecosystems, but a broad interest in all types of terrestrial ecosystems, including projects on temperate forests, drylands and urban ecosystems. Process-based vegetation modelling and 3D forest reconstructions are our core research tools, but the questions arising from the modelling work require dedicated field work activities. These fieldwork activities focus on (i) improving uncertain process descriptions within vegetation models and on data-poor regions like the Congo Basin; and (ii) lidar-based remote sensing


CAVElab contributes to an increased understanding of ecosystem functioning in a changing environment, to nature conservation and development cooperation. To do this, we train scientists and conduct question-driven research on vegetation ecology and biogeochemistry of terrestrial ecoystems, with a strong focus on tropical forest ecosystems.


CAVELab aims to catalyse innovative, fundamental and applied research through the integration of vegetation modelling and field work. We believe that team dynamics lift our science to a higher level and therefore invest energy both in personal and team goals. Good personal relationships and job satisfaction are key. We are committed to share our research with the widest possible audience; therefore, we publish in high quality scientific journals and invest in public outreach. We value ethics and invest resources for capacity building for our activities in developing countries. We believe that true collaborative research is only possible by sharing: open source software and codes, data sharing, open access publications.

Research lines

  • Vegetation dynamics in the climate response of (tropical) woody ecosystems (e.g. lianas, succession, monodominance, phenology, functional diversity & disturbance)
  • Biogeochemical cycles in (tropical) forests (C-N-P, water) in response to climate and land use change, including land-atmosphere interactions.
  • The role of vegetation structure in ecosystem functioning.


  • Process-based vegetation models. We are currently running projects where we develop, parameterise and apply various vegetation models including ED2, ORCHIDEE, LPJ-GUESS and FORMIND. We integrate vegetation models with multiscale observational data from leaf level gas-exchange, over plot-scale inventories and eddy covariance fluxes to remote sensing data.
  • Terrestrial laser scanning (TLS). We use 3D TLS data to virtually reconstruct forests that can be used as input for vegetation models; to assess their aboveground biomass; or to understand their natural structural dynamics or response to disturbances.
  • Field observational work. We go out in the field to do a range of measurement, particularly in data-poor regions, like the Congo Basin. We do ecophysiological observations, eddy covariance measurement (Congoflux), inventories, traits sampling, …


  • We work in wet tropical forest in French Guiana, Panama, DR Congo and Australia; in tropical mountain forests in Ecuador and Africa; in temperate forest in Europe.
  • We work in dryland savannas in Senegal and Australia.
  • Urban ecosystems. We study city trees and their ecosystem services in Belgium and France, and work closely together with the council of Ghent.


  • CAVElab is a member of the Natural Capital platform of the Faculty of Bioscience Engineering at Ghent University, Belgium.
  • CAVElab is a member of CAFRINAT, an international centre of excellence for the African Great Lakes' Natural Capital
  • CAVElab is a member of the NASA CEOS Aboveground Biomass Product validation
  • Via the Congoflux fluxtower, CAVElab is member of ICOS
  • We participate in the COST Action 3DForEcoTech on three-dimensional forest ecosystem monitoring and better understanding by terrestrial-based technologies