To improve our ecological understanding and to effectively apply our expanding ecological knowledge to contemporary societal issues, such as land use and climate change, fields of conceptual, strategic and applied ecology should become fully integrated. As an ecologist, I build on basic ecological theory in investigating effects of natural and anthropogenic disturbances on terrestrial ecosystems. It has become increasingly acknowledged that individual species’ responses to environmental changes strongly depend on community context and on multi-trophic interactions. Single species experiments may provide little information on whole ecosystem functioning under environmental change. Therefore, in my research, I explicitly focus on community dynamics, both under natural conditions (e.g. succession) and as affected by human impacts. My research particularly regards linkages between plant communities and soil communities and the consequences of plant-soil interactions for ecosystem functioning.