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Biodiversity and Ecosystems

Image of Loch Clair, Scotland
Monitoring Biodiversity and Ecosystems

The aim of the Biodiversity and Ecosystem subgroup is to understand how human driven global and local changes impact on the network of interactions between animals, microbes and plants in natural and semi-natural habitats to predict change and develop methods of sustainable management.

We work across most terrestrial and some aquatic systems in Scotland, including alpine, moorland, grasslands, arable, coastal, rivers and woodlands. Our research is aimed at understanding how ecosystems function and the role that biodiversity plays and, how biodiversity is affected by changes in land use and climate.

Our primary research areas include

  • Characterisation and identification of important but knowledge deficient biodiversity groups using contemporary molecular techniques with a focus on fungi.
  • Using a trait based approach to understand how interactions between organisms control how management affects ecosystem function in semi-natural and intensively managed ecosystems.
  • Understanding the ecological impact of diseases (especially tree diseases such as ash die-back and oak decline) and disease vectors on biodiversity and ecosystem function.
  • Developing approaches to manage landscapes to maintain ecosystem services including their intrinsic nature values.The peatland research work in this area spans multiple scientific disciplines, including greenhouse gas emissions monitoring, development of tools to monitor condition using Earth Observations, modelling of future climate change impacts and socio-economic assessments and modelling (projects include e.g., NERC MOTHERSHIP, WetHorizons, and the RESAS-funded CentrePeat and Grassland on peat projects within the Strategic Research Programme and Underpinning National Capacity programme).
  • Developing new methods for biodiversity monitoring.
  • Increasing the resilience of our semi-natural systems (e.g. our DiversiTree project)
  • Investigating the effects of nitrogen deposition and climate change on Scottish semi-natural ecosystems (e.g. our NINE project)
  • Communicating and exchanging knowledge about forest resilience (e.g. our Tree of Knowledge project)

For further information about the group and its activities contact the group-leader Ruth Mitchell


Areas of Interest

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The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.