Sustainable Ecosystems

Our Research

Ecosystems are comprised of a large number of feedbacks between their many component organisms and the abiotic environment. How can we understand such complexity and how do we make such systems more resilient to the many and various human impacts?

Multifunctional Landscapes

Ecosystems on our planet are not only home for diverse life forms and powerhouse of climate regulations, but also source of critical societal needs, for food, materials, medicine, energy, arts, culture and entertainment. Our interdisciplinary work applies rapidly advancing ecological understandings to a range of natural and human modified landscapes, from tropical rainforests to the UK agricultural landscapes, to enable better actions that optimise landscape multifunctionality, balancing nature conservation and societal demands.

Antibiotics in the Environment

Antibiotics and other antimicrobials are often derived from soil microorganisms. The indiscriminate release of those chemicals in the environments can affect the functioning and health of ecosystems and human health. We are studying the potential effects on ecosystems and in turn, human health This is a global problem, and we are taking a global approach working with colleagues in South America and China.

Sustainable Pest Control

Pest insects are one of the greatest threats to food production, causing over 20% of the world’s total crop damage each year, with new and emerging pests causing distinct problems across the planet. The extensive use of chemical pesticides causes environmental pollution, risks to human health, non-target effects on natural enemies and development of pesticide resistance. Biological control programmes, where natural enemies or microbial baits are harnessed to control insect pests, offer a viable alternative. In collaboration with the UK Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board and colleagues in the UK and Australia we investigate the role of microbes and diseases in the control of major global crop pests.

Plant-microbial Interactions

Plants are constantly exposed to a range of fungi and bacteria, both above- and belowground. These interactions can range from beneficial to pathogenic. We are investigating the patterns and processes determining plant-microbial associations and the role these interactions play in achieving sustainable ecosystems, including agricultural systems.

Sustainable Agroecosystems

We all need to eat, but the intensive high-input agricultural methods developed over the last 80 years have taken their toll on the environment. A myriad microscopic bacterial, fungal and invertebrate communities underpin agricultural productivity and understanding these communities better may hold the key to developing more sustainable production methods. Part of the research group work with an array of other academics and agricultural sector researchers to describe the unseen biodiversity in agricultural systems and to understand the effects of various agricultural practises on these.


Key Personnel and Expertise

Dr Lan Qie – Conservation, carbon accounting, tropical forests, land use, ecosystem management, climate change, environmental technology

Dr Sheena Cotter – Eco-immunology, nutritional ecology, host-parasite interactions, insect ecology

Dr Jenny Dunn – Host-parasite interactions and parasite transmission in wildlife

Professor Mat Goddard – Population and community ecology

Dr Iain Gould - Soil Science

Dr Graziella Iossa – Behavioural and evolutionary ecology, antimicrobial resistance in the environment, ecosystems and human health

Professor Libby John – Plant ecology, plant-animal interactions, root-soil interactions, biodiversity

Dr Carl Soulsbury – Behavioural ecology and evolutionary biology

Dr Iain Stott – Computational ecology

Dr Sandra Varga – Plant and soil ecology

Prof Dave Wilkinson – Ecology, evolution, archaeology and Earth System Science

Dr Isobel Wright - Agricultural Environmental Science, Regenerative Agriculture, Biodiversity, Sustainable Resource Management