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Ecosystems

Our research in ecosystems and sustainability considers the diversity of life, its interactions with its physical environment, and its stewardship from within the context of a process understanding of Earth's life support system.

Interests include terrestrial ecosystems, their biogeochemical interactions with the lithosphere and atmosphere, and the role of human populations in altering these interactions (e.g. climate change, land-use change, pollution of ecosystems and eutrophication) and in their response to change (e.g. natural hazards, ecosystem services and climate change economics). Research ranges from investigations of individual habitats to whole catchment ecosystems and region wide investigations across latitudes ranging from the tropics to the poles. Such studies inform, and are integrated within Earth system models.

The group considers genetic diversity, nutrient cycles, comparative physiology, water balances and energy budgets in response to perturbation whether caused by natural catastrophe or human impacts, and extends to the influence of changing climate on ecosystem services. Such research is placed within a broader context of social interactions through our long-standing collaborations with colleagues in the School of Engineering and Innovation (Faculty od Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and School of Geography (Faculty of Arts and Social Science).

Cutting across three main research themes (see below) there is expertise in community and end-user engagement (e.g. Evolution Megalab, iSpot, the Floodplain Meadows Partnership, Isotope, Earthwatch, MethaneNet) and scholarship interests in the development of innovative teaching tools.

Biodiversity

In response to the current crisis of species extinctions across the globe, research within this theme focuses on the evolution and maintenance of biodiversity with particular emphasis on molecular evolution and conservation biology. Various questions in evolutionary biology and population dynamics are addressed, through specialisms in behavioural ecology, environmental physiology, population genetics, and terrestrial and marine microbial ecology. Emphasis is placed on the interpretation of long-term experiments. There is a strong focus on citizen science approaches via the Evolution Megalab and iSpot.

Climate Change and the Earth System

Studies recognise the nature of Earth’s climate system as being intimately associated with processes in the oceans, feedbacks with the biosphere and astronomical influences. Superimposed upon these interactions is the increasingly important role played by humans in modifying Earth’s radiative balance. Research seeks to monitor and quantify climate related change for a range of Earth’s systems while increasing predictive capability through the development of Earth system models of intermediate complexity.

Terrestrial Ecosystems and Biogeochemistry

Research focuses on Earth’s terrestrial ecosystems and biosphere atmosphere exchange of greenhouse gases. Studies range from investigations of the smallest microbial unit to whole catchment ecosystems and across a wide range of latitudes with a developing focus on tropical ecosystems. Research considers element cycles, water balances and energy budgets in response to change whether caused by natural catastrophe through volcanic eruptions or fire or through human impact. There is a strong focus on understanding carbon and nutrient dynamics within wetland ecosystems in response to change.

 

 

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