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Lucy Rowland installing sensors to measure water flux in trees in tropical rainforest in Ghana.

Matt Amesbury and Angela Gallego taking a core in Sassendalen, Svalbard

Angela Gallego taking a 6m long peat core in Oropel, Panama

Carbon cycle investigation in recovering Karst Ecosystems at the Puding Karst Ecosystem Research Station, Guizhou Province, China

Landscape and Ecosystem Dynamics

This research cluster builds on the University of Exeter’s established strengths in carbon, water, and nutrient cycling, with expertise in biodiversity, ecosystem functioning and modelling in the major global biomes.

The group’s recent research has included:

Understanding global biomes

We have:

  • made major advances in quantifying Amazonian forest productivity and change, the impacts of fire, land-use change, air quality, forest response to drought and the role of soil nutrients in the region;
  • studied the resilience of tropical ecosystems to environmental change across the pan-tropics;
  • studied acclimation of tropical montane forests to climate change;
  • taken trace gas measurements in tropical Asian Oil Palm;
  • studied processes driving functioning of peatland ecosystems at high latitudes and the role of tropical peatlands in the carbon cycle;
  • investigated the role of nutrient cycling in controlling mature forest and grassland responses to rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations;
  • led major projects examining soil carbon dynamics in a range of terrestrial environments, from the role of erosion in agricultural systems to the biogeochemical consequences of permafrost thaw at high latitudes.

Pioneering technologies and techniques

We have:

Developing and applying land management solutions

We have:

  • applied global models of terrestrial ecosystems and the land carbon cycle, e.g. to study the role of land-based climate mitigation to avoid dangerous climate change;
  • studied how land-use perturbs ecosystem service delivery and to identify approaches to minimise/reverse damaging impacts of soil erosion and land degradation;
  • developed economical flux based assessments of nature based solutions;
  • undertaken pioneering research in upland landscape and tropical savanna restoration to help create landscapes more resilient to land use and climate change;
  • led the DRYFLOR network of >80 Latin American researchers and conservationists working in neotropical dry forests. We support conservation and livelihoods with focus on agroforestry and ecosystem restoration in some of the world’s most threatened tropical forests and savannas.
  • studied peatland management, restoration and land use change impacts on peatland ecosystem functioning.
ProjectExeter PIFunding
Tropical peatlands and the carbon cycle, 2020-2025 Angela Gallego-Sala ERC €2.57m
Diversifying tree based grazing systems to create smallholder price premium opportunities for milk production in the Amazonian Arc of Deforestation Toby Pennington GRTA £615k
BioResilience: Biodiversity resilience and ecosystem services in post-conflict socio-ecological systems in Colombia Ted Feldpausch NERC NewtonFund ColombiaBio £1.4m
Quinquennial (half-decadal) carbon and nutrient dynamics in temperate forests: Implications for carbon sequestration in a high carbon dioxide world, Oct 2019-Sept 2024 Iain Hartley NERC large £850,000
Climate-Carbon Interactions in the Coming Century Stephen Sitch (co-investigator) EU H2020 £1.3m
Increasing Carbon Accumulation in Arctic Peatlands, 2019-2022 Angela Gallego-Sala NERC £795k
Restoring Neotropical dry ecosystems - is plant functional composition the key to success? Lucy Rowland NERC-FAPESP £1.3m
Lightning: An invisible driver of tree mortality in the tropics?  Tim Hill NERC £800k
Can the formation of new soil organic matter offset decomposition losses from thawed permafrost soils, June 2019-May 2023 Iain Hartley NERC £540k to Exeter
Do dryland ecosystems control variability and recent trends of the land CO2 sink? Richard Brazier NERC £800k
Ozone impacts on tropical vegetation: implications for forest productivity, 2018-2021 Stephen Sitch NERC £800k
Can tropical montane forest acclimate to high temperatures? 2017-2022  Lina Mercado NERC £800k
The Amazon Fertilisation Experiment (AFEX), Oct 2014-Mar 2020 Iain Hartley NERC £624k