MarsdenClaireAssociate Professor

SupAgro Montpellier




INRA, UMR Eco&Sols,  Batiment 12 2 Place Viala, 34060 Montpellier Cedex 2
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Téléphone : +33(0)499 61 30 77 et +33(0)467 61 70 56
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Research interests

Ecology of agricultural soils

  • roles of soil macrofauna in organic matter and nutrient dynamics
  • interactions between macrofauna, plants and other soil organisms
  • spatial heterogeneity of soil functioning and role in soil quality

Research background

My first research work with the CIRAD investigated carbon and water fluxes in tropical Eucalyptus plantations in Congo and Brazil. Our general question was: “Are these plantations sustainable, in biophysical terms?”, and in particular “Do they sequestrate carbon, and if so how much?”

Evaluating the share of root and heterotrophic respiration in the carbon fluxes between the soil and the atmosphere was my first contribution. My further work zoomed out to the functioning of the entire Eucalyptus plantation, made up of a mosaic of individual stands. I tried to understand the cause of the strong spatial and temporal variability in stand growth, and to take it into account in ecophysiological growth models, for instance using remote sensing techniques. I concluded that soil functioning explained a large part of carbon and water flux variability.

Soil functioning was therefore crucial to all my concerns about agroecosystem sustainability – and yet, its representation in the ecophysiological models I had used was frustratingly partial and simplistic. That’s why I chose to focus my subsequent research work on ecological interactions in the soil system, and how they contribute to ecosystem services provided and used by agroecosystems.

As a member of UMR Eco&Sols, I now work on soil macrofauna and its roles in organic matter and nutrient dynamics, in relation with the spatial heterogeneity of low-input agroecosystems. I mainly work in agricultural systems aiming to increase cultivated diversity (intercropping and agroforestry systems).

Teaching activities

I teach soil ecology at Montpellier SupAgro, a National Institute for Further Education in Agricultural Science, in the Master-level French Engineering programs “Ingénieur agronome” and “Sustainable Agricultural & Agri-Food Systems for the South» delivered at the IRC Institute for Higher Education in Tropical and Sub-Tropical Agri-Food Sciences.
I also co-coordinate the second year of the Masters program in Biology, Ecology, Evolution specialized in Ecosystem studies, which is jointly run by the University of Montpellier and Montpellier SupAgro.

Since its launch in 2016, I have been a member of the Agroecology MOOC teaching team.


  • 2011- today: Associate professor at Montpellier SupAgro, UMR Eco&Sols
  • 2009-2010 : Assistant professor at Paris Sud University, UMR ESE
  • 2006-2010 : PhD, Nancy University, CIRAD, and Laboratorio Clima e Biosfera of São Paulo University in São Paulo State, Brazil : « Carbon and water balance of fast-growing Eucalyptus plantations : modelling and spatial extrapolation from stand to region. »
  • 2006 : Masters in forest ecophysiology at Nancy University. Research project at CIRAD – UR2PI, Congo-Brazzaville on the evaluation of heterotrophic respiration.
  • 2005 : French Agricultural Engineering Diploma at the Toulouse Engineering Faculty of Life Sciences. Research project at CIRAD –UR2PI, Congo-Brazzaville on root respiration in Eucalyptus plantations.

Few publications

Salome, C., Coll, P., Lardo, E., Metay, A., Villenave, C., Marsden, C., Blanchart, E., Hinsinger, P., Le Cadre, E. 2016. The soil quality concept as a framework to assess management practices in vulnerable agroecosystems: A case study in Mediterranean vineyards. Ecological Indicators. 61, 456-465

Marsden, C., Y. Nouvellon, J.P. Laclau, M. Corbeels, R.E. McMurtrie, J.L. Stape, D. Epron et G. le Maire, 2013. Modifying the G'DAY process-based model to simulate the spatial variability of Eucalyptus plantation growth on deep tropical soils. Forest Ecology and Management 301, 112–128

Nouvellon, Y., D. Epron, C. Marsden, A. Kinana, P. Deleporte, L. Saint-André, J.P. Bouillet, J.P. Laclau. 2012. Age-related changes in litter inputs explain annual trends in soil CO2 effluxes over a full Eucalyptus rotation after afforestation of a tropical savannah. Biogeochemistry 111, 515-533.

le Maire, G., Marsden, C., Verhoef, W., Ponzoni, F.J., Lo Seen, D., Begué, A., Stape, J.L. et Nouvellon, Y., 2011. Leaf area index estimation with MODIS reflectance time series and model inversion during full rotations of Eucalyptus plantations. Remote Sensing of Environment 115, 586-599.

Marsden, C., G. le Maire, J.L. Stape, D. Lo Seen, O. Roupsard, O. Cabral, D. Epron, A.M. Lima, and Y. Nouvellon, 2010. Relating MODIS vegetation index time-series with structure, light absorption and stem production of fast-growing Eucalyptus plantations. Forest Ecology and Management. 259:1741-1753.

Epron, D., C. Marsden, A. Thongo M’Bou, L. Saint-André,R. d’Annunzio and Y. Nouvellon, 2009. Soil carbon dynamics following afforestation of a tropical savannah with Eucalyptus in Congo. Plant and Soil. 323: 309-322.

Marsden, C., Y. Nouvellon and D. Epron, 2008. Relating coarse root respiration to root diameter in clonal Eucalyptus stands in the Republic of the Congo. Tree Physiology, 28:1245-1254.

Marsden, C., Y. Nouvellon, A. Thongo M'Bou, L. Saint Andre, C. Jourdan, A. Kinana and D. Epron, 2008. Two 'independent estimations of stand-level root respiration on clonal Eucalyptus stands in Congo: up scaling of direct measurements on roots versus the trenched-plot technique. New Phytologist. 177:676-687.



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