Biogeography and Ecology

header image of blue tit, trees and a graph

The Biogeography and Ecology research theme at Birmingham focuses on key global environmental change issues in a range of systems and across spatial and temporal scales, using a large-scale biogeography and macroecological lens.

We are an inter-disciplinary group whose work spans the theoretical, empirical and methodological spheres and often involves the combination of large datasets and complex biological models. We work on a variety of different systems, including tropical forests, peat lands, urban areas and oceanic islands, and a range of taxonomic groups, including plants, birds, arthropods and carnivorous mammals. Our work often has an applied focus, and recent questions we have focused on in this regard include examining how: 1) multiple global change drivers interact to affect biodiversity at different scales; 2) the impacts of urbanisation on different components of biodiversity; 3) the interactions between vegetation and environmental change at large scales; and 4) the processes that control the provision of key ecosystem services in global peatlands.

Funding and projects

We are currently funded through a diverse pool of sources (e.g. ERC, NERC, EPSRC and the Leverhulme Trust). Current funded and/or collaborative projects include:

  • ERC funded research on constraining the rates and drivers of tree mortality at regional-global scales
  • EPSRC / NERC funded research into urban sustainability, including a DTP funded field and lab-based project focused on indicators of pollution-derived stress in birds (NERC)
  • A recent NERC Highlight Consortium project focused on developing a UK fire danger rating system
  • An interdisciplinary programme assessing the importance of ancient orchards for the biodiversity in the UK (Leverhulme Trust)
  • A field-based PhD-led project focused on the impacts of climate change on tree phenology in Nigerian forests (PTDF UK Strategic Partnership Scholarship)
  • A collaborative project with Operation Wallacea focused on exploring multi-taxa responses to land-use change and climate change at the global scale
  • A joint SUSTech-Birmingham PhD program focused on habitat connectivity and carnivorous mammal dispersal in China

Public Engagement

Due to the applied nature of much of our research, we are frequently involved in public engagement activities. One recent example is a five-year Big Lottery-funded project (OPALWM) designed around the scientific findings of research into urban biodiversity led by Professor Jon Sadler. The project actively seeked to promote the use of science by extensive outreach activity within the West Midlands and across the country. This work created a wide range of initiatives to involve local communities (including local schools, amateur natural history groups, local businesses and the public at large) in ‘citizen science’ programmes aimed at monitoring and appreciating their local biodiversity. 

PhD opportunities

PhD opportunities are available annually through the CENTA doctoral training programme, and are often advertised on an ad hoc basis by different members of the group at various points.

We are always keen to talk to potential students about opportunities. 


In this section you can find a selection of relevant publications by the Biogeography and Ecology group in the last three years. See the pages of individual staff members for more comprehensive lists.


Pugh, T.A.M., Arneth, A., Kautz, M. et al. (2019) Important role of forest disturbances in the global biomass turnover and carbon sinks. Nature Geoscience, 12, 730–735.

Pugh, T. A., Lindeskog, M., Smith, B., Poulter, B., Arneth, A., Haverd, V., & Calle, L. (2019) Role of forest regrowth in global carbon sink dynamics. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 116, 4382-4387.

Langgut, D., Cheddadi, R., Carrión, J.S., Cavanagh, M., Colombaroli, D., Eastwood, W.J., Greenberg, R., Litt, T., Mercuri, A.M., Miebach, A. & Roberts, C.N. (2019) The origin and spread of olive cultivation in the Mediterranean Basin: The fossil pollen evidence. The Holocene, 29, 902-922.

Kettridge, N., Lukenbach, M.C., Hokanson, K.J., Devito, K.J., Petrone, R.M., Mendoza, C.A. & Waddington, J.M. (2019) Severe wildfire exposes remnant peat carbon stocks to increased post-fire drying. Scientific Reports, 9, 3727.

Matthews, T.J., Triantis, K, Rigal, F. & Whittaker, R.J. (2019) A global model of island species-area relationships. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 116, 12337-12342.

Matthews, T.J., Sadler, J., Kubota, Y., Woodall, C.W. & Pugh., T.A.M. (2019) Systematic variation in North American tree species abundance distributions along macroecological climatic gradients. Global Ecology & Biogeography, 28, 601-611.

Hopper, N.G., Gosler, A.G., Sadler, J.P. & Reynolds, S.J. (2019) Species’ cultural heritage inspires a conservation ethos: The evidence in black and white. Conservation Letters, 12, e12636.


Krause, A., Pugh, T.A.M, Bayer, A.D., Li, W., Leung, F., Bondeau, A., Doelman, J.C., Humpenöder, F., Anthoni, P., Bodirsky, B.L. and Ciais, P. (2018) Large uncertainty in carbon uptake potential of land‐based climate‐change mitigation efforts. Global Change Biology, 24, 3025-3038.

Eastwood, W, Fairbairn, A, Stroud, E, Roberts, N, Lamb, H, Yiğitbaşıoğlu, H, Şenkul, Ç, Moss, A, Turner, R & Boyer, P (2018) Comparing pollen and archaeobotanical data for Chalcolithic cereal agriculture at Çatalhöyük, Turkey. Quaternary Science Reviews, 202, 4-18.

Matthews, T. J., Sadler, J., Carvalho, R., Nunes, R. and Borges, P. A. (2018) Differential temporal beta‐diversity patterns of native and non‐native arthropod species in a fragmented native forest landscape. Ecography, 41, 1–10.


Whittaker, R.J., Fernández-Palacios, J.M., Matthews, T.J., Borregaard, M.K. & Triantis, K.A. (2017) Island biogeography: taking the long view of nature’s laboratories. Science, 357, eaam8326.

Arneth, A., Sitch, S., Pongratz, J., Stocker, B.D., Ciais, P., Poulter, B., Bayer, A.D., Bondeau, A., Calle, L., Chini, L.P., Gasser, T., Fader, M., Friedlingstein, P., Kato, E., Li, W., Lindeskog, M., Nabel, J.E.M.S., Pugh, T.A.M., Robertson, E., Viovy, N., Yue, C. & Zaehle, S. (2017) Historical carbon dioxide emissions caused by land-use changes are possibly larger than assumed. Nature Geoscience, 10, 79-84.

Kettridge, N., Lukenbach, M.C., Hokanson, K.J., Hopkinson, C., Devito, K.J., Petrone, R.M., Mendoza, C.A. and Waddington, J.M. (2017) Low evapotranspiration enhances the resilience of peatland carbon stocks to fire. Geophysical Research Letters, 44, 9341-9349.

Reynolds, S.J., Davies, C.S., Elwell, E., Tasker, P.J., Williams, A., Sadler, J.P. & Hunt, D., (2016) Does the urban gradient influence the composition and ectoparasite load of nests of an urban bird species? Avian Biology Research, 9, 224-234.