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RD 1.3.1 Biodiversity and ecosystem function

Surveying sand dune systems to understand the role of global change.

Researchers at the James Hutton Institute and the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh are working together to provide scientific evidence to underpin the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy. The key objectives of the research are to:

  • Understand how ecosystem functions are regulated by species traits in semi-natural and cropped systems;
  • Develop and refine indicators of ecosystem health and improve biodiversity metrics to support policy and targeted action;

Within farming systems we are investigating how intra-specific and inter-specific variation can contribute to building systems that are resilient in the face of environmental variation; for example can compromising on peak productivity increase average productivity across years with different weather. We are also looking at the role of local adaptation in barley to understand how genetic diversity can be used to sustain production on marginal soils. Within upland ecosystems we are investigating the constraints on populations of rare plant species and the potential for population supplementation and expansion.

Aerial view of a crop mixture trial investigating the interaction between barley crop diversity and weed performance.

We are also investigating the propagation of management actions, such as grazing or lime addition, through upland grasslands to understand the trophic linkages between impacts on the plant and soil communities through to the impacts on upland bird communities.

We are working with the SBS Indicators Working Group to test current approaches to indicators, such as the Natural Capital Asset Index, and to help develop and refine new indicators of Ecosystem Health. We have produced two reports on the potential to develop new Ecosystem Health Indicators, one on urban greenspace and one on bryophyte and lichen diversity data, and more recently a report on identifying data gaps and exploring the handling of cultural ecosystem services in the NCAI.

Projects within this area of research

Project Information
Project Type: 
Active Project
SEFARI – Scottish Environment, Food and Agriculture Research InstitutesSEFARI is the collective of six Scottish world-leading Research Institutes working across the spectrum of environment, land, food, agriculture and communities – all topics which affect how we live our lives, in Scotland and beyond.


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.