Ecologie comparative des organismes, des communautés et des écosystèmes


Felix de Tombeur photoPostdoc researcher (Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellow)

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leaf surface Sue

Research interests

Soil scientist fascinated by plant ecophysiology, my research focusses on soil-plant interactions in both natural and controlled conditions. I am particularly interested in silicon (Si), a major component of the Earth’s crust and soils, that is increasingly considered as a key element in plant ecology and agriculture through the fantastic process of biosilicification (mineral deposits in plant organs as seen on the left).



Research thematic

I combine expertise in soil science and plant ecophysiology to work on three different research axes:

  • The influence of soil properties, and in particular their evolution over time through the use of long-term chronosequences, on silicon cycling (e.g., soil Si pools and fluxes, Si availability for plants, Si uptake by plants and silicification, biological versus lithological control on Si cycling)
  • The control of overlooked biotic factors on soil-plant Si mobility (e.g., soil microorganisms, large herbivores, root exudates), and how they could be leveraged to increase crop Si status through specific agricultural practices.
  • Developing functional trait-based approaches to better understand the role and functions of Si and silicification in plant ecophysiology, and how it aligns with major ecological theories (plant growth/defense tradeoff, plant economics spectrum, resource availability hypothesis, etc.).


de Tombeur F, Roux, P, Cornelis JT (2021), Silicon dynamics through the lens of soil-plant feedback interactions: perspectives for agricultural practices. Plant and Soil. 467, 1-28.

de Tombeur F, Laliberté E, Lambers H, Faucon MP, Zemunik G, Turner BL, Cornelis JT, Mahy G (2021) A shift from phenol to silica-based leaf defenses during long-term soil and ecosystem development. Ecology Letters. 24, 984-995.

de Tombeur F, Cornelis JT, Lambers H (2021), Silicon mobilization by root-released carboxylates. Trends in Plant Science. 26, 1116-1125.

de Tombeur F, Cornelis JT, Laliberté E, Lambers H, Mahy G, Faucon MP, Turner BL (2021) Impact of ecosystem water balance and soil parent material on the terrestrial silicon cycle: insights from three long-term chronosequences. Biogeochemistry. In press.

de Tombeur F, Cooke J, Collard L, Cisse D, Saba F, Burgeon V, Hassan N, Cornelis JT (2021), Rice-husk biochar affects silicification patterns and physical traits of rice leaves cultivated in desilicated soils (Ferric Lixisol). Plant and Soil. 460, 375-390.

Vander Linden C, Li Z, Iserentant A, Van Ranst E, de Tombeur F, Delvaux B (2021), Rainfall is the major driver of plant Si availability in perudic gibbsitic Andosols. Geoderma. 404, 115295.

Falster, D, et al. (2021) AusTraits – a curated plant trait database for the Australian flora. Scientific Data. 8, 254.

de Tombeur F, Turner BL, Laliberté E, Lambers H, Cornelis JT (2020) Silicon dynamics during 2 million years of soil development in a coastal dune chronosequence under a Mediterranean climate. Ecosystems. 23, 1614-1630.

de Tombeur F, Turner BL, Laliberté E, Lambers H, Mahy G, Faucon MP, Zemunik G, Cornelis JT (2020) Plants sustain the terrestrial silicon cycle during ecosystem retrogression. Science. 369, 1245-1248.

de Tombeur F, Vander Linden C, Cornelis JT, Godin B, Compere P, Delvaux B (2020), Soil and climate affect foliar silicification patterns and silica-cellulose balance in sugarcane (Saccharum officinarum). Plant and Soil. 452, 529-546.

de Tombeur F, Cornu S, Bourlès D, Duvivier A, Pupier J, ASTER Team, Brossard M, Evrard O (2020) Retention of 10Be, 137Cs and 210Pbxs in soils: Impact of physico-chemical characteristics. Geoderma. 367, 114242.

Li Z, de Tombeur F, Vander Linden C, Cornelis JT, Delvaux B (2020) Soil microaggregates store phytoliths in a sandy loam. Geoderma. 360, 114037.

Nakamura R, Cornelis JT, de Tombeur F, Yoshinaga A, Nakagawa M, Kitajima K (2020) Diversity of silicon release rates among tropical tree species during leaf-litter decomposition. Geoderma. 368, 114288.

Nakamura R, Cornelis JT, de Tombeur F, Nakagawa M, Kitajima K (2020) Comparative analysis of borate fusion versus sodium carbonate extraction for quantification of silicon contents in plants. Journal of Plant Research. 133, 271–277.

Leroy N, de Tombeur F, Walgraffe Y, Cornelis JT, Verheggen F (2019) Silicon and plant natural defenses against insect pests: impact on plant volatile organic compounds and cascade effects on multitrophic interactions. Plants. 8, 444.

de Tombeur F, Sohy V, Chenu C, Colinet G, Cornelis JT (2018) Effects of permaculture practices on soil physicochemical properties and organic matter distribution in aggregates: a case study of the Bec-Hellouin Farm (France). Frontiers in Environmental Science. 6, 116.