Professor Timothy Quine
Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education) / Professor of Earth System Science


Research interests

Tim’s research interests lie in 6 areas

  • Understanding & quantifying erosion processes on agricultural land – the role of tillage erosion.
    The last decade has seen a paradigm shift in understanding of soil redistribution processes on agricultural land and research in collaboration with Gerard Govers (Catholic University of Leuven) has been influential in this shift. Early tillage erosion experiments were undertaken in North America (Lindstrom, Lobb) and France (Revel), but the dominance of tillage erosion as a soil redistribution process was first demonstrated when experimental data were combined with erosion models (developed by Leuven and Exeter) and 137Cs data. Collaborative research between Exeter and Leuven led to the formulation of the EU-funded TERON project (partners: Dino Torri, Firenze, Juan Vincente Giraldez, Cordoba, Constantinos Kosmas, Athens, Raphael da Silva, Evora & Goswin Heckrath, Foulum) which has addressed the current state and future trends in tillage erosion in Europe. Developments in tillage erosion research have formed the focus of 3 international conferences (Toronto 1997, Leuven 1999, Exeter/Reading, 2002) organised iin collaboration with Gerard Govers and David Lobb ( University of Manitoba). Further research in this area has been undertaken in collaboration with Prof. Xinbao Zhang ( Institute of Mountain Hazards and Environment, Chengdu, China), Dr Les Basher ( Landcare, New Zealand) and Zhanli Wang (National Key Laboratory of Soil Erosion & Dryland Farming on the Loess Plateau, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Yangling, Shaanxi Province, China).
  • Soil erosion and carbon dynamics on agricultural land.
    Research undertaken under the TERON programme demonstrated that soil redistribution by tillage erosion is of sufficient magnitude to lead to evolution of significant spatial variation in soil properties over time periods of a few decades (Quine et al., 1999; Quine and Zhang, 2002). This has important implications for carbon dynamics and these are currently being explored with Kristof Van Oost (Marie Curie Fellow, Exeter) and Gerard Govers and Roel Merkx ( Leuven). Ongoing research supports the contention that on rolling terrain subject to mechanised agriculture in temperate environments tillage erosion drives a carbon sink of the order of 5-15 g C m -2 year -1 (Van Oost et al., 2005). This has significant implications for carbon sequestration policy. We are currently developing carbon isotope work with Jennifer Harden (USGS) and exploring links to climate change with Richard Betts and Peter Falloon (Hadley Centre, UK MetOffice).
  • Development and application of techniques for erosion assessment using radionuclides.
    The advances in understanding outlined above have been made possible through developments in erosion assessment using fallout radionuclides (especially 137Cs, 134Cs and 210Pbex). Pioneering work in this field was undertaken in North America and Australia, however, NERC-funded research undertaken with Prof. Walling represented the first systematic application of radionuclide techniques in Europe. Developments included: systematic sampling strategies linked to collection of topographic and land use data; methods for erosion rate estimation using mass-balance models; evaluation and validation of erosion rate estimates using independent data. Much of the early work using fallout radionuclides focused on Developed Countries. Research sponsored by Lloyd’s of London and ODA in collaboration with Des Walling, Xinbao Zhang (Chengdu), Qalabane Chakela (Lesotho) and Owen Mandiringana (Zimbabwe) represented some of the first applications of the approach in areas where erosion is a more severe problem – Zimbabwe, Lesotho and China (Sichuan, Yunnan, Gansu, Shaanxi Provinces). Work with Xinbao Zhang and Des Walling has made important progress in identifying the source of sediment reaching the Yellow River, and the processes of erosion on steep farmland.
  • Sediment Supply, Slope-Channel Coupling and Channel Response.
    This area of research is being undertaken in collaboration with Andrew Nicholas with the support of a NERC-funded studentship (Rhian Thomas) and a current NERC small grant. Advances in understanding of the link between sediment supply and landform evolution are being established through comparison of the results of numerical modelling (cellular and 1-dimensional) with reconstructions of landscape change based on data derived from fieldwork in the Avoca valley, New Zealand, laboratory analysis of soils (OSL at CSIRO, Canberra; chemical indicators of pedogenic processes; magnetic properties) and image analysis of archive aerial photographs.
  • Experimental Geomorphology.
    This body of work is divided into two components: well-established field tillage experiments and developing laboratory approaches to investigation of and large-scale landscape evolution and soil erosion processes. Tillage experiments have been funded by BGRG and TERON. Laboratory investigations have been undertaken in Leuven and form the focus of ongoing developmental work in the Sediment Research Facility. Phil Greenwood (NERC-funded PhD student) is examining the potential for active tracing of sediment pathways using fallout radionulcides. Lucy Clarke (Exeter-funded PhD student) is developing the landscape evolution work in an experimental invesitigation field of alluvial fan dynamics.
  • Remote sensing of agricultural landscapes.
    This area of research has been supported by a NERC ARSF flight to investigate erosion signatures using hyperspectral data from cropland sites in Devon (2002) and by research studentships (3), funded by the Saudi Arabian Cultural Bureau, that have focussed on aspects of Agricultural development in KSA. Eed Al-Otaibi used a time series of remotely sensed images from early air photos through Landsat MSS and TM to IKONOS to map the agricultural development of the Najran Valley, Saudi Arabia and to examine the correlation between documentary records and reconstruction based on image interpretation. Abdulaziz Al-Zokair investigated the potential for mapping soil salinization in Hasa Oasis in Eastern Province, Saudi Arabia using both soil reflectance and vegetation stress. Ali Aldosari has conducted a GIS/RS study of the 2000 outbreak of Rift Valley Fever in Jizan Province, Saudi Arabia. Particular emphasis has been on the potential to identify mosquito breeding sites and risk of RVF infection using readily accessible data layers and satellite imagery. Comparison with of risk maps with the distribution of infection provides insights into both the reliability of the approach and non-environmental controls on the outbreak.

Tim has been actively involved with the British Geomorphological Research Group - BGRG . He served on the Executive Committee since from 1997 to 2001 and as Honorary Secretary from 1998 to 2001. He received the Gordon Warwick Award of the Group in 1997. Tim maintains links with the antipodes through membership of the South Pacific Environmental Radionuclide Association (SPERA) and presented keynote papers at the 1998 and 2000 conferences. Tim also serves on the Editorial Board of the Journal of Soil and Tillage Research.


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