Contact Dr Sarah De Baets

Areas of expertise


I am a physical geographer (M.Sc) and obtained a PhD degree at the University of Leuven (Belgium). After my PhD I obtained a personal post-doctoral grant from the KU Leuven for 1 year, followed by a 3 year personal post-doctoral fellowship from the National Scientific Research Foundation to work at the University of Louvain (UCL, Belgium). From 01/09/2011 onwards I worked at Exeter University as research fellow. My research projects focussed on the effects of plant roots on the resistance of soils to concentrated flow erosion and the selection of suitable species for erosion control (PhD), on the vulnerability and recovery of soils following disturbances (post docs) and on the fundamentals of root-soil cohesion (latest Leverhulme project with University of Bristol).

I study interactions between vegetation (with special focus on plant roots!) and related soil quality properties (e.g. soil cohesion, soil fertility) in relation to soil degradation processes and disturbances (e.g. erosion, fire).

Current activities

Whereas the effects of the aboveground biomass on soil erosion processes are quite well understood, the effects of plant roots on the vulnerability and recovery of soils following disturbances are much less understood. My research tries to contribute to better understanding the fundamentals of root-soil cohesion and its implications for restoration and sustainable land management. Research I am involved in or interested in focusses on:

  1. assessing the impact of vegetation and climate change on soil quality and stability;

  2. effects of climate change on root properties of plants and their slope reinforcing potential;

  3. selecting the most suitable species/strategies for future road/railway/river embankment stabilization and erosion remediation on agricultural land.


Articles In Journals


  • De Baets S, Quine TA & Poesen J (2014) Root strategies for rill and gully erosion control. In: Root Engineering: Basic and applied concepts. Morte A, Varma A (ed.), Springer-Verlag, p. 297-323.