Professor Iain Hartley
Professor of Terrestrial Ecosystem Science


Research interests

The main focus of my research is on improving understanding of how the terrestrial biosphere will respond to global change, and what the implications will be for future rates of climate change.

I am primarily an experimental ecologist, using manipulations to quantify ecosystem responses to key drivers, but also make use of natural gradients and natural disturbances to test hypotheses related to global change. My research combines controlled laboratory experiments with field measurements in ecosystems as diverse as Arctic tundra and Amazon rainforest. I make extensive use of stable and radiocarbon isotopes to compliment measurements of fluxes (CO2, CH4) and stores of carbon in different ecosystems. My work is highly collaborative with ongoing projects involving hydrologists, plant physiologists, microbiologists, remote sensors, and soil scientists, as well as ecosystem and Earth system modellers.

Current projects include: 1) investigating how soil microbial community responses may modify the effects of temperature on decomposition rates in soils; 2) determining the role of plant biodiversity and fire disturbance in controlling the rates, and implications, of permafrost thaw in contrasting ecosystems in northern Canada; 3) quantifying the role of nutrient availability in controlling the productivity of Amazon forests; 4) investigating the potential effects of atmospheric CO2 concentration on C uptake in rainforests.

Specific research areas:
1.    Effects of temperature on decomposition rates in soils
2.    Elevated CO2 effects on plant productivity and ecosystem C storage
3.    Plant-soil interactions and nutrient-cycle influences on carbon-cycle feedbacks
4.    Permafrost carbon dynamics
5.    Methane fluxes in terrestrial ecosystems
6.    Soil microbial community responses to global change
7.    The use of radiocarbon in carbon cycle research

Research projects

Research grants

  • 2016 NERC
    Phosphorus Limitation And ecosystem responses to Carbon dioxide Enrichment (PLACE)
  • 2015 NERC
    SPECTRA: Soil Processes and Ecological Services in the Karst Critical Zone of Southwest China
  • 2014 NERC
    The Amazon Fertilisation Experiment (AFEX)
  • 2014 InterAmerican Development Bank
    Amazon FACE experiment
  • 2013 DECC
    Determining the role of permafrost thaw in controlling rates of methane release from terrestrial high-latitude ecosystems
  • 2012 NERC
    CYCLOPS: Carbon Cycling Linkages of Permafrost Systems: NERC Arctic Research Programme award
  • 2010 NERC
    Thermal acclimation of soil microbial respiration: consequences for global-warming-induced carbon losses?

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