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Ecosystems and Sustainability

Wind and agricultural farm, Chandler, Minnesota, United States. Photo: PXLated, creativecommons licenses

Research in the Ecosystems and Sustainability area has access to state-of-the-art laboratory facilities in the ecosystems laboratories. There are three research themes:

  • Biodiversity and conservation
  • Biogeochemistry and ecosystem ecology
  • Climate change and ecosystem services.

Image: Wind and agricultural farm, Chandler, Minnesota, United States. Photo: PXLated. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-No Derivatives License

Key facts

  • Research in the School is funded by a diverse range of external funding bodies, including the NERC, the European Union, philanthropic charities (e.g. The Leverhulme Foundation; Esmee Fairbairn Foundation), Defra and the Royal Society.
  • The School hosts the Evolution MegaLab, an innovative project bringing evolution into classrooms and iSpot aiding the identification of organisms worldwide.
  • Members of the discipline regularly publish in high-impact journals such as Science, Nature, PNAS and Proceedings of the Royal Society.


The ecosystems labs are an integrated resource supporting the work of the Ecosystems and Sustainability area. Instrumentation has been built up over several years and are housed in the Ecosystems Laboratory building.

Facilities include a controlled environment laboratory for monitoring model ecosystems. A set of controlled environment cabinets (4 Snijders Microclima 1750) allow for programmable lighting, temperature to below 0ºC, humidity levels and CO2 control to sub-ambient levels as well as fumigation with pollutants such as ozone.

Growth trials are also undertaken in greenhouses, polytunnels, in controlled water regime mesocosms or under grow-lamps as appropriate. Additional equipment used in monitoring experiments includes fast-response laser-based methane analyser to ppb levels; CO2 analyser (IRGA) capable of field respiration measurements; GCs to measure a range of atmospheric constituents. There are several other laboratories that allow for the preparation of samples for analysis and to engage in soil physics work.

Field research is supported by state-of-the-art GPS (Leica R1200) and surveying kit (Leica T750), which allow field locations to be mapped and relocated with centimetre accuracy. The group sustains many long-term field survey programmes using this kit plus an array of logging sensors to monitor soil hydrology.

Further information

If you have an enquiry specific to this research area please contact:

Michelle Aitken
+44 (0)1908 332943

For general enquiries please contact the Research Degrees Team via the link under 'Your Questions' on the right of the page.


Research publications by Open University staff are available through Open Research Online (ORO), the university's repository of research publications and other research outputs. ORO can be searched or browsed by staff name or subject.

The following list, generated from ORO, provides a flavour of the most recently published work in Ecosystems and Sustainability