Peter de Ruiter conducts research on the composition and ecological stability of soil ecosystems, and the relationship between soil life, soil processes and environmental quality. Soils offer interesting research material as they contain a wealth of biological species such as bacteria, fungi, insects and worms. These species are responsible for the degradation of organic materials in soil, which form a key component of our global energy, carbon and nutrient cycles. De Ruiter's research focuses on the occurrence of tipping points and the related 'catastrophic' transitions in soil quality and vegetation during soil degradation and desertification processes. The prevention of such transitions can be crucial in ensuring the continued availability of food supplies in semi-arid areas at a heightened risk of desertification.
De Ruiter has been a professor at Wageningen University since 2008. Previously, he was a scientific manager at the Wageningen University Soil Sciences Centre and professor at Utrecht University. De Ruiter has published in leading scientific journals such as Science and Nature, and is the co-author of the books Energetic Food Webs (2012, Oxford University Press) and Dynamic Food Webs (2005, Academic Press). De Ruiter has served on various boards and advisory bodies, including as chairman of the academic advisory council of the UvA's Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED).