Ecology and Conservation

Biodiversity and Ecosystems

At the largest scale, we seek to understand ecosystems and biodiversity in a holistic sense. Fundamental research into spatial and temporal patterns of biodiversity, and how those patterns change under changing environmental conditions, is a core part of our work. Academics within the group work on a range of theoretical problems in biodiversity science to understand how animals and plants are distributed in the landscape and how best they can be measured and quantified.

Applied projects seek to understand some of the most important but threatened ecosystems on earth. Work on the plant communities in the African savannah examines the combined roles of large herbivore grazing and long-term climate change in the determination of plant communities and their function as a store of carbon. Research projects on tropical and temperate coral reefs are monitoring coral bleaching events in real-time, with long-term data that central to understanding the resilience of these highly productive communities to extreme heat waves.

Our researchers are also studying the roles of ecosystem services in cities, where urban green space can contribute significantly to carbon capture, urban cooling, and human health. By studying the link between urban biodiversity, landscape design, and human attitudes and perceptions, we are helping city planners to design nature-friendly, sustainable cities.

Key researchers


Dr Maria Beger
Associate Professor of Conservation Science

Professor Tim Benton
Professor of Population Ecology; UK Champion for Global Food Security

Dr Amanda Bretman
Associate Professor of Animal Behaviour

Dr Steve Compton
Reader in Entomology 

Dr Elizabeth Duncan
Associate Professor of Zoology

Professor Alison Dunn
Professor of Ecology

Dr Christopher Hassall
Associate Professor of Biology

Dr Simon Goodman

Professor Bill Kunin
Professor of Ecology

Dr Cassandra Raby
Teaching Fellow in Biology

Dr Steven Sait
Reader in Ecology

Dr Josie South

Dr Lochran Traill

Dr Alastair Ward
Associate Professor of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Management

Research projects

o Coral reef ecology – While the world’s coral reefs are suffering in situ from extreme bleaching events due to climate change, there are also changes occurring in temperature areas. Maria Beger is exploring how temperate marine ecosystems (often dominated by kelp) are being replaced over time by tropical coral systems as the oceans warm. This work is helping to formulate new conservation priorities across multiple Pacific countries.