School of Earth and Environment

Luuk Fleskens Dr Luuk Fleskens

Associate Professor in Environmental Change

Telephone number: +31(0) 317 485467
Email address:

Affiliation: Sustainability Research Institute


I am interested in assessing the impacts of environmental change, and particularly how land and water management interventions can increase resilience of agro-ecosystems. Using integrated environmental models and participatory methods I consider impact in both physical and economic terms, at different scales, and taking into account diverging socio-cultural perceptions of various stakeholders. This ranges from a farmer who, based on his or her perceived benefits and constraints decides to adopt or not to adopt technologies, to environmental policy-making where the objective of equitable and sustainable resource use and rural development is easier claimed than reached. I am also interested in the role science can play to bring together stakeholders at different levels and to resolve conflicts of interest.

I currently hold a joint appointment at the Soil Physics and Land Management Group of Wageningen University, The Netherlands, and the School of Earth and Environment at the University of Leeds. In total I have over 15 years experience working on sustainable land management in advisory, research, and consulting positions with a focus on Africa and Southern Europe. Previous experiences include working as a technical advisor for capacity building of research on soil and water conservation in Eritrea, and as a consultant for a wide range of organizations and projects in Mozambique. Recent consultancy assignments include the development of a payment for watershed services programme for UNDP in Malawi, a study on prioritizing rural public works interventions for IFDC in Rwanda, Burundi and Eastern Congo DRC and on including environmental conservation in an integrated environmental health project for AMREF in Kenya.


  • MSc Tropical Land Use (1997)
  • PhD Production Ecology and Resource Conservation (2007), Wageningen University


I am an associate editor of the journal Frontiers in Agroecology and Land Use Systems, and member of the editorial boards of the journals Regional Environmental Change and The Scientific Word Journal, and of the IUCN Commission on Ecosystem Management.

Research Interests

  • Sustainable land management
  • land degradation
  • water harvesting
  • integrated environmental modelling
  • participatory processes
  • farmer decision-making

Current research projects

  • iSQAPER (2015-2020, funding by EU Horizon2020), on interactive soil quality assessment in Europe and China for agricultural production and environmental resilience
  • RECARE (2013-2017, funding by EU FP7), on preventing and remediating degradation of soils in Europe through land care
  • CASCADE (2012-2016, funding by EU FP7), on catastrophic shifts in Mediterranean drylands and development of management schemes for sustainable resource use and conservation of ecosystem services.
  • WAHARA (2011-2016, funding by EU FP7), on water harvesting for rainfed Africa to enhance food production and resilience, with study sites in Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Tunisia and Zambia.
  • Transforming water scarcity through trading (2011-2014, funding by EPSRC), looking at market opportunities to enhance distributed water storage in the UK and developing country context.

Past research projects

  • DESIRE (2007-2012, funding by EU FP6), a large research project on promising alternative land use and management conservation strategies in sixteen degradation and desertification hotspots around the world.

Current PhD student supervision

Completed PhD students

  • Ms Sarah Lebel- Assessing the potential of rainwater harvesting as an adaptation strategy to climate change in Africa (Co-supervised with Prof Piers Forster and Dr Brian Irvine; funded by University of Leeds FIRS studentship, 2011-2014).
  • Ms Uzma Aslam - Assessing the scope of PES in relation to GHG emissions in agri-ecosystems (Co-supervised with Prof Mette Termansen; funded by Higher Education Commission (HEC) Pakistan, 2009-2013).
  • Mr Doan Nainggolan - On the operationalization of a spatially explicit evaluation of the complexity of land use trajectories in semi-arid Mediterranean agro-ecosystems (Co-supervised with Prof Mette Termansen; funded by University of Leeds ORS, DESIRE, and Aarhus University, 2007-2012).

Academic CV (pdf file)