Delphine Clara Zemp

Clara Zemp is Assistant Professor and head of the Conservation Biology Lab at the university of Neuchâtel. Her research lies at the interface between biodiversity, climate and land use at the agriculture-forest frontiers. It focuses on the importance of tree diversity and cover to (1) provide habitat for biodiversity across various groups of organisms (multidiversity), (2) support multiple ecosystem functions and services for society (multifunctionality), and (3) maintain the resilience and ecological integrity of ecosystems facing land-use and climate changes. Hence, her research addresses fundamental research questions in ecology and aims at guiding biodiversity conservation and ecological restoration strategies in the face of global changes.

Prior to joining the university of Neuchâtel, she was working at the university of Göttingen in Germany as postdoctoral researcher and scientific coordinator of the Biodiversity Enrichment Experiment in oil palm plantations (EFForTS-BEE). This interdisciplinary research platform is part of the largest network of biodiversity experiments worldwide (TreeDivNet) and the Collaborative Research Centre on “Ecological and Socioeconomic Functions of Tropical Lowland Rainforest Transformation Systems (Sumatra, Indonesia)” (EFForTS), in which she is still involved today as associated scientist.

During her PhD at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) in Germany in collaboration with the National Institute for Space Research (INPE) and the university of São Paulo (USP) in Brazil, she studied interactions between the Amazon forest and climate. After receiving a doctoral degree from the Humboldt University in Berlin in 2016, she was awarded a start-up grant to conduct research on deforestation effects on Amazon forest resilience.



2021 –: Assistant Professor with tenure track in Conservation Biology, University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland 

2016 – 2020: Postdoc & Lecturer, Biodiversity, Macroecology & Biogeography, University of Göttingen, Germany

2016: Postdoc, Earth System Analysis, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Germany



2015: PhD thesis “Vegetation-rainfall feedbacks in the Amazon region: a complex network approach”, Humboldt University Berlin, Germany 

2012: Engineer degree (equivalent MSc) in Agronomy / Geomatics, National Polytechnic Institute of Toulouse, France

2008: Classes préparatoires aux Grandes Écoles (equivalent BSc) in Natural Sciences
École Nationale de Chimie Physique Biologie, Paris, France


Research stay abroad 

Vietnam (undergraduate internship, 6 months), Norway (undergraduate internship, 6 months), Brazil (PhD, 6 months), Indonesia (postdoc, 2 years)


Awards and distinctions

2017: Research Highlights in Nature for her article published in Geophysical Research Letters 
2015: Merian Award from the Society of Tropical Ecology (GTÖ)
2014: Editor's Choice Article for her article published in Europhysics Letter
2013: Xavier Bernard foundation Award from the French Academy of Agriculture


In the media

Oil palm plantations in Sumatran watershed worsen flooding in communities (mongabay.com)

Wie kann man den Bösewicht Palmöl naturfreundlicher machen? (WDR Radio) 

Wie kann man den Palmölanbau ökologischer und sozialer machen?  (WDR Radio) 

Fewer trees mean less rain for the Amazon basin : Research Highlights (nature.com)

Intact forests crucial to Amazon ecosystem resilience, stable climate (mongabay.com)

Adapt to a changing Amazon now, or pay far higher price later, experts say (mongabay.com)

Biologische Vielfalt kann den Amazonasregenwald vor dem Klimakollaps retten – wenn wir sie lassen (biodiversity.de)

Vicious circle of drought and forest loss in the Amazon (pik-potsdam.de) [see also Science TimesScienceDailyDW ]


Selected presentations

Keynote talk at the International Workshop on Tropical BEF-experiments (YouTube)




Darras , K. F. A., Yusti, E., Huang,J. C.-C., Zemp, D. C., Kartono, A. P., Wanger, T. C., Bat point counts: a novel bat sampling method shines light on flying bat communitiesEcology and Evolution, in press

Messier, C., Bauhus, J., Sousa-Silva, R., Auge, H., Baeten, L., Bruelheide, H., Caldwell, B., Cavender-Bares, J., Dhiedt, E., Eisenhauer, N., Ganade, G., Gravel, D., Guillemot, J., Hall, J., S., Hector, ‪A., Hérault, B., Jactel, H., Koricheva, J., Kreft, H., Mereu, S., Muys, B., Nock, C. A., Paquette, A., Parker, J. D., Perring, M. P., Ponette, Q., Potvin, C., Reich, P. B., Scherer-Lorenzen, M., Schnabel, F., Verheyen, K., Weih, M., Wollni, M., Zemp, D. C. (2021) For the sake of resilience and multifunctionality, let’s diversify planted forests!, Conservation Letters, e12829. 

Somenguem, L. D., Röll, A., Ellsäßer, F., Ehbrecht, M., Irawan, B., Hölscher, D., Knohl, A., Kreft, H., Siahaan, E. J., Sundawati, L., Stiegler, C., Zemp, D. C. (2021) Microclimate and land surface temperature in a biodiversity enriched oil palm plantation, Forest Ecology and Management, 497(119480).

Korol, Y., Khokthong, W., Zemp, D. C., Irawan, B., Kreft, H., Hölscher, D. (2021) Scattered trees in an oil palm landscape: density, size and distributionGlobal Ecology and Conservation, e01688

Ehbrecht, M., Seidel, D., Annighöfer, P.,  Kreft, H., Köhler, M., Zemp, D. C., Puettmann, K., Nilus, R., Babweteera, F., Willim, K., Stiers, M., Soto, D., Boehmer, H. J.,  Fisichelli, N., Burnett, M., Juday, G., Stephens, S., Ammer C. (2021) Global patterns and climatic controls of forest structural complexityNature Communications, 12:619. 

Ballauff , J., Zemp, D. C., Schneider, D., Irawan, B., Daniel, R., Polle, A. (2020) Legacy effects overshadow tree diversity effects on soil fungal communities in oil palm-enrichment plantationsMDPI – microorganisms, 8(10), 1577.

Merten, J., Stiegler, C., Hennings, N., Purnama, E., Röll, A., Agusta, H., Dippold, M., Fehrmann, L., Gunawan, D., Hölscher, D., Knohl, A., Kückes, J., Otten, F., Zemp, D. C., Faust H. (2020) Flooding and land-use change in Jambi Province, Sumatra: integrating local knowledge and scientific inquiryEcology and Society, 25:14.

Zemp, D.C & Gérard, A. Hölscher, D, Ammer, C., Irawan, B., Sundawati, L., Teuscher, M., Kreft, H. (2019) Tree performance in a biodiversity enrichment experiment in an oil palm landscapeJournal of Applied Ecology, doi: 10.1111/1365‐2664.13460.

Zemp, D.C, Ehbrecht, M., Seidel,D., Ammer, C., Craven, D., Erkelenz, J., Irawan, B., Sundawati, L., Hölscher, D., Kreft, H. (2019) Mixed-species tree plantings enhance structural complexity in oil palm plantationsAgriculture, Ecosystems and Environment, 283, 106564.

Khokthong, W., Zemp, D. C., Irawan, B., Sundawati, L., Kreft, H., Hölscher, D. (2019) Drone-based assessment of canopy cover for analyzing tree mortality in an oil palm Agroforest, Frontiers in Forests and Global Change, 2:12, doi: 10.3389/ffgc.2019.00012.

Seidel, D., Annighöfer, P, Stiers, M., Zemp, D.C. , Burkardt, K., Ehbrecht, M., Willim, K., Kreft, H., Hölscher, K., Ammer, C. (2019) How a measure of tree structural complexity relates to architectural benefit-to-cost ratio, light availability and growth of treesEcology and Evolution, doi:10.1002/ece3.5281.

Röll, A., Niu, F., Meijide, A., Ahongshangbam, J., Ehbrecht, M., Guillaume, T., Gunawan, T., Hardanto, A., Hendrayanto, H., Hertel, D., Kotowska, M., Kreft, H., Kuzyakov, Y., Leuschner, C., Nomura, M., Polle, A., Rembold, K., Sahner, J., Seidel, D., Zemp, D. C., Knohl, A., Hölscher, D. (2019) Transpiration on the rebound in lowland Sumatra. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology , 274, 160-171.

Weng, W., Costa, L., Luedeke, M., Zemp, D.C. (2019) Aerial river management by smart cross-border reforestationLand Use Policy , 84, 105-113.

Grossman, J.J., Vanhellemont, M., Barsoum, N., Bauhus, J., Bruelheide, H., Castagneyrol, B., Cavender-Bares, J., Eisenhauer, N., Ferlian, O., Gravel, D., Hector, A., Jactel, H., Kreft, H., Mereu, S., Messier, C., Muys, B., Nock, C., Paquette, A., Parker, J., Perring, M.P., Ponette, Q., Reich, P.B., Schuldt, A., Staab, M., Weih, M., Zemp, D.C., Scherer-Lorenzen, M. & Verheyen, K. (2018) Synthesis and future research directions linking tree diversity to growth, survival, and damage in a global network of tree diversity experiments. Environmental and Experimental Botany, doi: 10.1016/j.envexpbot.2017.12.015.

Staal, A., Tuinenburg, O., Bosmans, J., Holmgren, M., Van Nes, E., Scheffer, M., Zemp, D. C., and Dekker, S. (2018) Forest-rainfall cascades buffer against drought across the AmazonNature Climate Change, doi:10.1038/s41558-018-0177-y.

Weng, W., Luedeke, M. K. B., Zemp, D. C., Lakes, T., and Kropp, J. P. (2018) Aerial and surface rivers: downwind impacts on water availability from land use changes in Amazonia. Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, 22, 911-927.

Zemp, D. C., Schleussner, C.F., Barbosa, M. J., and Rammig, A. (2017) Deforestation effects on Amazon forest resilience. Geophysical Research Letters, 44, doi:10.1002/2017GL072955. 

Zemp, D. C., Schleussner, C.F., Barbosa, M. J., Hirota, M., Montade, V., Sampaio, G., Staal, A., Wang-Erlandsson, L. and Rammig, A. (2017) Self-amplied Amazon forest loss due to atmosphere-vegetation feedbacksNature Communications, doi:10.1038/ncomms14681.

Boit, A, Sakschewski, B., Boysen, L., Crespo, A., Clement, J., Alaniz, N., Kok, K., Kolb, M., Langerwisch, F., Rammig, A., Sachse, R., van Eupen, M., von Bloh, W., Zemp, D. C., Thonicke, K. (2016) Large-scale impact of climate change versus land-use change on future biome shifts in Latin America. Global Change Biology, 22, 3689-3701.

Zemp, D. C., Schleussner, C.-F., Barbosa, H. M. J., van der Ent, R. J., Donges, J. F., Heinke, J., Sampaio, G., and Rammig, A. (2014) On the importance of cascading moisture recycling in South AmericaAtmospheric Chemistry and Physics, 14, 13337-13359.

Zemp, D. C., Wiedermann, M., Kurths, J., Rammig, A. and Donges, J. F. (2014) Node-weighted measures for complex networks with directed and weighted edges for studying continental moisture recyclingEurophysics Letters, 107, 58005. 

Delphine Clara Zemp

Head of laboratory

Assistant professor 


+41 32 718 31 14

Office A013

Rue Emile-Argand 11
2000 Neuchâtel