Professor Stephen Sitch
Chair in Climate Change


Research interests

Stephen understands the vital importance of field-based and experimental science in underpinning modelling activities, i.e. for functional understanding and model evaluation, and to grasp issues of uncertainty relating to temporal and spatial variability and heterogeneity in ecology. These issues remain major challenges for the global modeling community. A close collaboration between field and experimental scientists, modelers and Earth Observation scientists is the key. His main research aims are:

  1. To utilize data on ecosystem functioning to advance, evaluate and help constrain global land surface models (LSMs).
  2. To apply LSMs in an interdisciplinary Earth system context to address policy relevant issues, relating to the cycles of water, carbon, nitrogen and other biogeochemical cycles.
  3. To study interactions between climate, chemistry and ecosystems.
  4. To investigate the role of land use and land cover change, and natural vegetation in the Earth system and the provision of ecosystem services.

Research projects

Stephen is leading an international activity under the Global Carbon Project (GCP) on recent trends in the regional land carbon sinks, which highlights the important role of regional drought on reducing carbon sink efficiency.


NERC Consortium (£444,573 to UoExe; Sept 2012- Aug 2016; Co-I, “South American Biomass Burning Analysis”

NERC Standard (£152,978.00 to UoExe) (2012- 2016); Co-I, “Understanding How Drought Affects the Risk of Increased Mortality in Tropical Rain Forests”

NERC CASE Studentship (£200k) Impact of tropospheric O3 on crop production, Case Partner: Met Office Hadley Centre

NERC Standard Grant, “Export of Ozone and Precursors from Europe and Impacts on Air Quality, Climate and Ecosystems” Co-I

EU FP7 “Land-use change: assessing the net climate forcing, and options for climate change mitigation and adaptation” Co-I (€472,213 to UoExe; Nov 1 2013 – 31 Oct 2017)

EU FP7 “High-End cLimate Impacts and eXtremes”. Co-I (€1,523,200 UoExe; Nov 2013 – Oct 2017)

NERC standard on Megafauna extinctions (2016-2020, Co-I £194,533 to UoExe)

NERC, “Identifying potential tipping points in the benefits derived from the UK’s land ecosystems” (2016-2019, Co-I, FEC £462k to UoExe)

NERC “Methane, Ozone, and the Carbon Budget for 1.5oC” (Co-I, 31st Oct2016 – 30 Oct 2017)

NERC “Climate, Land-Use and Ecosystem Services at 1.5C”, (Co-I, £92,595.38, Oct 2016- 2017)

Newton Fund “Vegetation dynamics modelling” (CSSP Brazil, Co-I, £198,906 April 2017-March 2019)

Newton Fund “Air Quality impacts on agriculture and ecosystems” (CSSP China, Co-I, £330k UoExe)

NERC Standard “Do dryland ecosystems control variability and recent trends of the land CO2 sink” (£800k, Co-I, awarded June 2017)

NERC Standard “Ozone impacts on tropical vegetation: implications for forest productivity” (£800k, PI, awarded June 2017)

Research networks

Key Publications

10. Jung, M. et al., Compensatory water effects link yearly global land CO2 sink changes to temperature, Nature, 541, 7638, 2017.

9. Tian, H. et al., The terrestrial biosphere as a net source of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, Nature, 531, 225-228, doi:10.1038/nature16946, 2016.

8. Ahlström, A., M. Raupach, B. Smith, G. Schurgers, A. Arneth, M. Jung, M. Reichstein, P. Friedlingstein, A. K. Jain, E. Kato, B. Poulter, S. Sitch, B. Stocker, N. Viovy, Y. -P. Wang, A. Wiltshire, N. Zeng, The dominant role of semi-arid ecosystems in the trend and variability of the terrestrial CO2 sink, Science, 348 (6237), 895-899, 2015.

7. Poulter, B., D. Frank, P. Ciais, R. Myneni, N. Andela, J. Bi, G. Broquet, J. G. Canadell, F. Chevallier, Y.Y. Liu, S.W. Running, S. Sitch and G.R. van der Werf (2014) Contribution of semi-arid eosystems to interannual variability of the global carbon cycle, Nature, doi:10.1038/nature13376, 2014.

6. Pan, Y., R.A. Birdsey, J. Fang,  R. Houghton, P.E. Kauppi, W.A. Kurz, O.L. Phillips, A. Shvidenko, S.L. Lewis, J.G. Canadell, P. Ciais, R.B. Jackson, S. Pacala, A.D. McGuire, S. Piao, A. Rautiainen, S. Sitch, D. Hayes, C. Watson (2011) A large and persistent carbon sink in the World’s forests, 1990-2007, Science, DOI: 10.1126/science.1201609, 2011.

5. Piao, SL, JY Fang, P Ciais, P Peylin, Y Huang, S Sitch and T Wang, The carbon balance of terrestrial ecosystems in China, Nature, 458, 1009-1014, 2009.

4. Mercado, L. M., N. Bellouin, S. Sitch, O. Boucher, C. Huntingford and P. M. Cox. Impact of Changes in Diffuse Radiation on the Global Land Carbon Sink. Nature, 458 (7241), 1014, 2009.

3. Sitch, S., P. M. Cox, W. J. Collins, C. Huntingford. Indirect radiative forcing of climate change through ozone effects on the land-carbon sink. Nature, doi:10.1038/nature06059, 2007.

2. Schröter, D., W. Cramer, R. Leemans, I. C. Prentice, M. B. Araũjo, N. W. Arnell, A. Bondeau, H. Bugmann, T. R. Carter, C. A. Gracia, A. C. de la Vega-Leinert, M. Erhard, F. Ewert, M. Glendining, J. I. House, S. Kankaanpaa, R. J. T. Klein, S. Lavorel, M. Lindner, M. J. Metzger, T. D. Mitchell, I. Reginster, M. Rounsevell, S. Sabaté, S. Sitch, B. Smith, J. Smith, P. Smith, M. T. Sykes, K. Thonicke, W. Thuiller, G. Tuck, S. Zaehle, B. Zierl. Ecosystem service supply and vulnerability to global change in Europe. Science, 10.1126/science.1115233, 2005.

1. Lucht, W., I. C. Prentice, R. B. Myneni, S. Sitch, P. Friedlingstein, W. Cramer, P.Bousquet, W. Buermann, B. Smith. Climate control of the high-latitude vegetation greening trend and Pinatubo effect, Science, 296, p 1687-1689, 2002.0

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