BIFoR wider forested landscapes related research

Birmingham Institute of Forest Research was formed in 2014 as a direct result of a £15 million philanthropic donation that was match-funded by the University. The funding was given to enable the newly formed Institute to investigate the impact of climate and environmental change on woodlands and the resilience of trees to invasive pests and pathogens. However, the University of Birmingham wants to use this unique opportunity to bring together all the forested landscapes related research  at the University of Birmingham into one virtual research institute to demonstrate our research depth and create opportunities and connections for future research. BIFoR is a virtual institute of over 100 academics. We have tried to summarise and signpost below to the forested landscapes related research underway.  If you’re based at the University of Birmingham and have not yet contacted us to be part of BIFoR and you are involved in research related to forested landscapes please do contact d.brettle@bham.ac.uk 

Our wider research is strengthed greatly by the Forest Edge Doctoral Scholarship programme (DSP) funded by the Leverhulme Trust.  This came online in October 2018. The programme will recruit around 20 PhD studentships over four years and by October 2020 we will have 16 PhD students completing a wide range of topics. Projects are rooted in a strongly disciplinary setting, but set out to explore interdisciplinary challenges around themes of: values and meanings of forests, change drivers and resilience of forests in a changing environment, and communication cascades at molecular, ecological and social scales. The key philosophy behind the programme is to provide support for projects and lines of enquiry which would not normally be funded by UK research councils. 

Biogeography

Dr Tom Matthews is part of a large team within the Biogeography and Ecology Team at the University of Birmingham.  Dr Matthews is a Birmingham Fellow who researches global environmental change issues using macroecological, macroevolutionary and biogeographical approaches. He applies a mixture of theoretical and empirical methods to investigate various macroecological topics, including species-area relationships and species abundance distributions. He has a keen interest in island systems and in particular the application of island theory to habitat island systems.

Also part of the team is Prof Jon Sadler . Prof Sadler is a biogeographer and ecologist whose research focuses on species population and assemblage dynamics in animals (sometimes plants). His work is highly interdisciplinary, bisecting biogeography, ecology, urban design, riparian management and island Biogeography.

Recent Publications

Aspin, T.W., Khamis, K., Matthews, T.J., Milner, A.M., O'Callaghan, M.J., Trimmer, M. Woodward, G. and Ledger, M.E. (2018) Extreme drought pushes stream invertebrate communities over functional thresholds. Global Change Biology, 25, 230-244 https://doi.org/10.1111/gcb.14495

Matthews, T, Sadler, J, Kubota, Y, Woodall, CW & Pugh, T (2019) Systematic variation in North American tree species abundance distributions along macroecological climatic gradients. Global Ecology and Biogeography. 25 (5) 600-611 https://doi.org/10.1111/geb.12879

Leigh, C, Aspin, T.W.H., Matthews, T.J., Rolls, R.J., Ledger, M.E. (2019) Drought alters the functional stability of stream invertebrate communities through time. Journal of Biogeography, 46, 1988-2000 https://doi.org/10.1111/jbi.13638

Matthews, T.J. & Aspin, T. (2019) Model averaging fails to improve the extrapolation capability of the island species–area relationship. Journal of Biogeography, 46, 1558-1568 https://doi.org/10.1111/jbi.13598

Biosphere-Atmosphere Exchange

Dr Tom Pugh leads the Biosphere-Atmosphere exchange group. His background is in computational modelling, particularly using global vegetation models. His research aims to improve understanding of the interactions between vegetation and environmental change at large scales. Tom is also the lead investigator on the TreeMort project.

Recent Publications

Esquivel-Muelbert, A. et al (2019) A Spatial and Temporal Risk Assessment of the Impacts of El Niño on the Tropical Forest Carbon Cycle: Theoretical Framework, Scenarios, and Implications. Atmosphere, 10, 588 https://doi.org/10.3390/atmos10100588

Ogaya, R., Liu, D., et al (2020) Stem Mortality and Forest Dieback in a 20-Years Experimental Drought in a Mediterranean Holm Oak Forest. Frontiers in Forests and Global Change, 2(89). https://doi.org/10.3389/ffgc.2019.00089 

Pugh, T. A. M., et al (2019) Role of forest regrowth in global carbon sink dynamics. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 116(10), 4382-4387. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1810512116 

Pugh, T. A. M., et al (2019) Important role of forest disturbances in the global biomass turnover and carbon sinks. Nature Geoscience, 12(9), 730-735. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41561-019-0427-2

Sullivan M.,  Lewis, S. L.; […] Esquivel-Muelbert, A.; […] Phillips, O. L. (2020) Long-term thermal sensitivity of Earth’s tropical forests. Science 368, 869-874 https://doi.org/science.aaw7578

Zang, C. S.; Buras, A.; Esquivel-Muelbert, A.; Jump, A. S.; Rigling, A.; and Rammig A. (2020) Standardized Drought Indices in Ecological Research: Why one size does not fit all. Global Change Biology   https://doi.org/10.1111/gcb.14809

Zohner C.,  Mo L.,   Pugh T.A.M., Bastin J., Crowther T., (2020) Interactive climate factors restrict future increases in spring productivity of temperate and boreal trees. Global Change Biology 25 (7)  https://doi.org/10.1111/gcb.15098

 

Business School

Dr Allan Beltran, Prof Robert Elliott, Professor David Maddison and Prof Eric Strobl have recently supervised / are supervising student(s) looking at forests and economics.

Maria Teresa Gonzalez is a PhD student with the Forest Edge Doctoral Scholarship Programme.  Forests are a terrestrial carbon sink, a home to biodiversity, provide clean air etc. Forest fires threaten these ecosystem services and also pose physical danger to households located on the vicinity. The high and increasing economic costs of forest fires can be reduced if we have a better understanding on the factors shaping the perceived risk of households. By using satellite and house price data our research will identify the size and persistence of the impact of pure information effect on the perception of forest fire risk.

Vilane Goncalves-Sales, had been looking at satellite monitoring of deforestation and the role of clouds in Maranhão, and is now working for the World Trade Institute.

Ecohydrology

The Water Sciences Research Theme has a large number of researchers, including the ecohydrology team Dr Sophie Comer-Warner, Prof David Hannah, Dr Nick Kettridge, Prof Stefan Krause, Dr Joshua Larsen, Prof Alexandra Milner

Forest Edge student Jenny Knight is in the final year of her PhD study which is exploring the desirability of forest landscapes in a natural flood management context.

Forest Edge student Ben Howard is in the final year of his PhD study which is looking at 'Coppice management to reduce nutrient loads in forest streams'

All recent publications from the water sciences research theme team are available on the Water Sciences Research Theme webpages, to follow are just a few:

Recent Publications

Comer-Warner, S.A., Gooddy, DC., Ullah, S., Glover, L., Percival, A., Kettridge, N., & Krause, S. (2019) Seasonal variability of sediment controls of carbon cycling in an agricultural stream, Science of the Total Environment, vol. 688, pp. 732-741. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2019.06.317

Comer-Warner, S.A., Romeijn, P., Gooddy, D.C., Ullah, S., Kettridge, N., Marchant, B., Hannah, D.M. & Krause, S. (2019) Addendum: Thermal sensitivity of CO2 and CH4 emissions varies with streambed sediment properties, Nature Communications, vol. 10, no. 1, 3093 . https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-019-11185-x

Mao, F., Khamis, K, Krause, S., Clark, J. & Hannah, D. (2019) Low-cost environmental sensor networks: recent advances and future directions. Frontiers in Earth Science, vol. 7, 221. https://doi.org/10.3389/feart.2019.00221

Romeijn, P, Comer-Warner, S.A., Ullah, S., Hannah, D.M. & Krause, S. (2019) Streambed organic matter controls on carbon dioxide and methane emissions from streams. Environmental Science and Technology, vol. 53, no. 5, pp. 2364-2374. https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.est.8b04243

 

Green House Gas Research

Prof. Vincent Gauci is a Birmingham Professorial Fellow in the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences. He is interested in the biogeochemistry of carbon-dense terrestrial ecosystems such as forests, wetlands, peatlands, and forested wetlands and peatlands. In particular he is interested in how these ecosystems interact with the atmosphere through the exchange of greenhouse gases with a particular focus on trace greenhouse gases such as methane and N2O. Vincent Gauci’s new research project (MitiMEN) seeks to identify the response of methane and Nitrous Oxide (N2O) emissions to peatland re-wetting, through a combination of detailed scientific investigation of methane and N2O emission from trees, soils and drainage channels in a Sumatran plantation. This research will help inform future policy decisions such as whether to raise water levels below peat surface to reduce future fire vulnerability of the peat. 

Dr Sami Ullah’s research is mainly focused on the biogeochemistry of nitrogen and its linkages to carbon and phosphorus cycling under global change in soils under forest, peatland/wetland, grassland, and agricultural crops. Dr Sami Ullah is involved in a number of research projects which started in 2019/20 including ‘MarshFLux: Greenhouse gases & blue carbon under global change’ and research project ‘MangRoot Research: Getting to the roots of the carbon in mangrove forests: a case study in Vietnam’. 

Recent Publications 

Deshmukh, CS, et al (2020) Impact of forest plantation on methane emissions from tropical peatland, Global Change Biology, vol. 26, no. 4, pp. 2477-2495. https://doi.org/10.1111/gcb.15019

Fayose, T., Thomas, E. Radu, T., Dillingham, P, Ullah, S. and Radu, A., (2020) Concurrent measurement of nitrate and ammonium in water and soil samples using ion-selective electrodes: tackling sensitivity and precision issue. Analytical Science Advances, Earlyview Online   https://doi.org/10.1002/ansa.202000124

Ma, J., Ullah, S., Niu, A., Liao, Z., Qin, Q., Xu, S., & Lin, C. (2020). Heavy metal pollution increases CH4 and decreases CO2 emissions due to soil microbial changes in a mangrove wetland: Microcosm experiment and field examination. Chemosphere, 128735. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chemosphere.2020.128735

Sjögersten, S, Siegenthaler, A, Lopez, OR, Aplin, P, Turner, B & Gauci, V (2020) Methane emissions from tree stems in neotropical peatlands. New Phytologist, vol. 225, no. 2, pp. 769-781. https://doi.org/10.1111/nph.16178

Welch, B., Gauci, V. and Sayer, E.J., (2019) Tree stem bases are sources of CH4 and N2O in a tropical forest on upland soil during the dry to wet season transition. Global change biology, 25(1), pp.361-372 https://doi.org/10.1111/gcb.14498

Pärn, J, et al (2018) Nitrogen-rich organic soils under warm well-drained conditions are global nitrous oxide emission hotspots, Nature Communications, vol. 9, 1135. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-018-03540-1   

Green Infrastructure

The West Midlands Air Quality Improvement Programme (WM-Air) is an initiative to support the improvement of air quality, and associated health, environmental and economic benefits, in the West Midlands. One of the eight work packages looks at Green Infrastructure. Some of the key academics involved in Green Infrastructure research are Dr Emma Ferranti, Dr Nick Grayson, Dr James Levine, Prof Rob MacKenzie

Strategic green infrastructure can provide effective barriers to pollution from vehicles, markedly reducing the public’s exposure at the roadside. Amongst urban practitioners, however, there has been some confusion surrounding the ways in which vegetation affects air quality. Practical techniques to quantify the impacts of proposed interventions have been missing. BIFoR is changing this.

Rob MacKenzie and James Levine have been awarded three successive Innovation grants from NERC to develop a quantitative Green Infrastructure for Roadside Air Quality (GI4RAQ) Platform, and to increase understanding of the effects of vegetation in this regard amongst public and private-sector stakeholders concerned with the design of our urban realm. James has meanwhile worked with Transport for London to develop their first evidence-based approach to GI4RAQ (in peer review) that builds on the simpler guidance he wrote with the Greater London Authority in 2019, 'Using Green Infrastructure to Protect People from Air Pollution'.

Dr Emma Ferranti, is the facilitator of the Birmingham Trees Design and Action Group (TDAG).  The publications this group collaborated on First Steps in Urban Air Quality and First Steps in Valuing Trees and Green Infrastructure are gaining national prominence. First Steps in Urban Air Quality summarises the science on air pollution and green/grey infrastructure so practitioners can make informed decisions to improve air quality for better health outcomes. First Steps in Valuing Trees and Green Infrastructure is an introductory guide that provides the context for valuing trees and green infrastructure in urban areas. It presents a range of common valuation scenarios and available tools. It describes how to approach valuation to ensure it delivers a change for the better in the way that policy, investment, design and management decisions affect environmental assets. Understanding the purpose of the valuation, and which stakeholders can act on valuation results is critical for success.

Recent Publications 

Ferranti, E.J. and Jaluzot, A., (2020) Using the Business Model Canvas to increase the impact of green infrastructure valuation tools. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening54, p.126776.

Levine, J. G., Brown Y., and  MacKenzie A.R. (2020), Green Infrastructure for Roadside Air Quality (GI4RAQ) Guidance & Decision Tree: An evidence-based approach to reducing roadside exposure to road transport pollution, Developed by the Birmingham Institute of Forest Research, University of Birmingham, and Transport for London, in review.

Greater London Authority (2019), Using Green Infrastructure to Protect People from Air Pollution, written in consultation with the Birmingham Institute of Forest Research, University of Birmingham, Global Centre for Clean Air Research, University of Surrey, and Transport for London https://www.london.gov.uk/WHAT-WE-DO/environment/environment-publications/using-green-infrastructure-protect-people-air-pollution

Cariñanos P., et al (2019) Estimation of the Allergenic Potential of Urban Trees and Urban Parks: Towards the Healthy Design of Urban Green Spaces of the Future. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 16(8), 1357. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16081357

Hewitt, C. N., Ashworth, K., & MacKenzie, A. R. (2019). Using green infrastructure to improve urban air quality (GI4AQ). Ambio. https://doi:10.1007/s13280-019-01164-3     

Jaluzot, A. and Ferranti, E.J.S. First Steps in Valuing Trees and Green Infrastructure. 2019. A Trees and Design Action Group (TDAG) Guidance Document. UK: London. Available  http://epapers.bham.ac.uk/3226/  

AirQualityNews.com by Dr James Levine and Dr Emma Ferranti – October 2019 https://airqualitynews.com/2019/10/04/why-green-infrastructure-is-critical-for-improving-air-quality/   

Promise Treescapes, not trees Article written December 2019 by Rob MacKenzie  https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/research/perspective/promise-treescapes-not-trees.aspx

Human Geography 

Professor Peter Kraftl is best known for his research on children’s geographies, and especially for research into the emotions, affects, materialities and practices that make up their everyday lives. He also publishes on geographies of education and architecture. 

Dr Sophie Hadfield-Hill is a Senior Lecturer in Human Geography at the University of Birmingham.  Principally a Children’s Geographer, Sophie’s expertise is children and young people’s everyday experiences of urban change in diverse contexts. 

Forest Edge student Polly Jarman is in the final year of study of her PhD which is exploring 'Young people’s experiences of and learning in urban woodlands'

Publications 

Christensen, P., Hadfield-Hill, S., Horton, J. and Kraftl, P. (2017) Children Living in Sustainable Built Environments: New Urbanisms, New Citizens. London: Routledge.

Nairn, K. and Kraftl, P. (2016) Space, Place and Environment (volume three of Springer Major Reference Work on Geographies of Children and Young People, Editor-in-Chief Tracey Skelton). Berlin: Springer.

Horton, J. and Kraftl, P. (2017) Three playgrounds: researching the multiple geographies of children’s outdoor play. Online early in Environment and Planning A

International Development Department 

Prof Fiona Nunan's interests and experience focus on natural resource governance and management in developing country settings, particularly within inland fisheries and coastal locations in East and Southern Africa, and on exploring the links between poverty and the environment. 

Dr Brock Bersaglio is a political ecologist who researchers interactions between human and nonhuman life in the context of conservation and development, focusing on Kenya, Tanzania, and Zambia. He is also involved in research on global development agendas, policies, and processes. 

Prof Nunan and Dr Bersaglio are supervisors of Forest Edge student Harriet Croome who started her PhD study in 2020. Harriet's draft title is 'Investigating how changing interactions between humans and elephants affect forest socio-ecological systems in drylands'.  

Molecular Ecophysiology

Dr Scott Hayward’s research group seeks to understand how organisms cope with variable and stressful environments. Temperate, polar and tropical terrestrial invertebrates (insects, mites and nematodes) are the primary focus of this endeavour. His lab uses state-of-the-art tools, and a systems biology approach, to investigate how these organisms detect, repair and stabilize the cellular and molecular damage induced by environmental stress, as well as their broader physiology and ecology. This research has fundamental applications in controlling agricultural pests and vectors of disease, as well as optimising ecosystem services such as pollination. Terrestrial invertebrates are also excellent biological thermometers in modelling the potential impact of climate change.

Recent Publications 

Bartlett, J., Convey P. and Hayward S. A. L. (2020) Surviving the Antarctic Winter—Life Stage Cold Tolerance and Ice Entrapment Survival in The Invasive Chironomid Midge Eretmoptera murphyi. Insects 11, 147; doi:10.3390/insects11030147

Pertierra L R, Bartlett J. C., Duffy G., Vega G. C., Hughes K. A., Hayward S. A. L., Convey P., Olalla-Tarraga M. A. and Aragón P. (2019) Integrating correlative and mechanistic niche models with human pressures to assess biological invasion risks in Antarctica: examining the case of an introduced midge. Journal of Biogeography 47:658-673

Pateman, R., Thomas, C.D., and Hayward S.A.L. Hill (2015) Macro‐ and microclimatic interactions can drive variation in species' habitat associations. Global Change Biology, 22 , 2, https://doi.org/10.1111/gcb.13056

Paleobotany

Paleobotany is the study of fossil plants that reveals information about once living species from the fossil record. Fossil plants provide important information about past processes including evolution, diversification, extinction as well as elucidating environmental change through deep time measured in hundreds of thousands or millions of years. Paleobotanical research at Birmingham utilises state of the art and traditional specimen based approaches to integrate information from both fossil and living plants. Recent foci include the origin of modern conifer families, evolution of forest ecosystems, and systematic relationships of plant groups. Research in paleobotany is multifaceted and links to research strengths within BIFoR in plant adaptions to climate change. 

Forest Edge student Bridget Warren is in her final year of study looking at leaf wax alkanes which do not decay on leaf death, and enter the sediment becoming part of the geological record. 

Recent Publications 

Meade, L., Placett, A.R.G. and Hilton, J.(2020) Reconstructing development of the earliest seed integuments raises a new hypothesis for the evolution of ancestral seed-bearing structures. New Phytologist https://doi.org/10.1111/nph.16792

Pšenička, J., Wang, J., Hilton, J., Zhou, W., Bek, J., Opluštil, S. and Frojdová, J. (2020) A small, heterophyllous vine growing on Psaronius and Cordaites trees in the earliest Permian forests of North China. International Journal of Plant Sciences 181: 616–645. http://doi.org/10.1086/708814

Wang, S.J., Wang, J., Li L and Hilton, J. (2019) Stems of the marattialean tree fern family Psaroniaceae from the earliest Permian Wuda Tuff Flora. Review of Palaeobotany and Palynology. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00606-007-0638-7

Wang, S.-J., Bateman, R., Spencer, A., Wang, J., Shao, L., & Hilton, J. (2017) Anatomically preserved “strobili” and leaves from the Permian of China (Dorsalistachyaceae, fam. nov.) broaden knowledge of Noeggerathiales and constrain their possible taxonomic affinities. American Journal of Botany, 104, 127-149. https://doi.org/10.3732/ajb.1600371 

Hilton, J., Riding, J. B., Rothwell, G. W (2016) Age and identity of the oldest pine fossils. Geology Forum Comment, Geology, Vol. 44, No. 8, e400 https://doi.org/10.1130/G38050C.1  

Peatland Landscapes and Wildfire Research

Dr Nick Kettridge specializes in characterizing the ecohydrological resilience of ecosystems to both natural and anthropogenic disturbance. Much of his research focuses on peatlands; understanding the processes that control the provision of key ecosystem services within these environments, and quantifying their response to changing climatic conditions and extreme events such as fire and drought. Nick Kettridge is a leading co-investigator in a £2.4m NERC Highlight Grant, “Toward a UK fire danger rating system: Understanding fuels, fire behaviour and impacts”  This project will deliver the science required to build a UK-specific Wildfire Danger Rating System. In addition, through his Pyrolife EU ITN project, Nick will also work with University of Birmingham colleagues to train the next generation of (European) wildfire experts.

Recent Publications

Kettridge, N., et al (2019) Severe wildfire exposes remnant peat carbon stocks to increased post-fire drying. Scientific Reports, 9(1), 3727. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-40033-7 

Depante, M et al (2018) Potential influence of nutrient availability along a hillslope: Peatland gradient on aspen recovery following fire, Ecohydrology. https://doi.org/10.1002/eco.1955  

Hokanson, KJ, et al (2018) A hydrogeological landscape framework to identify peatland wildfire smouldering hotspots, Ecohydrology. https://doi.org/10.1002/eco.1942   

Leonard, R, Kettridge, N, et al (2018) Disturbance impacts on thermal hotspots and hot moments at the peatland-atmosphere interface, Geophysical Research Letters, vol. 45, no. 1, pp. 185-193. https://doi.org/10.1002/2017GL075974 

Plant Atmospheric Interactions

Some of the main academics, involved in research in Plant Atmospheric Interactions are Dr Xiaoming Cai, Prof Rob MacKenzie, Dr Christian Pfrang and Prof Francis Pope

Dr Christian Pfrang is part of another ‘free air experiment’ in the UK, a Free Air Diesel and Ozone Enrichment facility (FADOE).  The experiment aims to understand the real world effects of air pollutants like ground level ozone and diesel exhaust. The 8 metre diameter rings allow the team led by Dr Neil Mullinger (CEH) to control the levels of ozone, diesel or both within each ring, this allows the team the opportunity to test how varying levels of these pollutants might effect the pollination success rates of the plants inside each ring. To put this simply, do bees visit the plants in the polluted rings less frequently than those with no pollution? Dr Pfrang is also part of the DOMINO project, led by Dr Robbie Girling at the University of Reading. The project aims to investigate the mechanisms by which air pollution can disrupt vital airborne chemical signals that insects such as bees and moths use for critical processes, such as mating or finding a flower, and will evaluate the ecological consequences of this phenomenon.

Recent Publications

Abdulrasheed, M. MacKenzie, A.R. Whyatt, J.D Chapman, L. (2020) Allometric scaling of thermal infrared emitted from UK cities and its relation to urban form, City and Environment Interactions, Vol(5) https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cacint.2020.100037

Gubb, C, Blanusa, T, Griffiths, A & Pfrang, C. (2019) Interaction between plant species & substrate type in the removal of CO2 indoors', Air Quality, Atmosphere & Health, 12, 10, pp.1197-1206. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11869-019-00736-2 

Rap, A., et al (2019) Enhanced global primary production by biogenic aerosol via diffuse radiation fertilization. Nature Geoscience 11(9), 640-644. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41561-018-0208-3 

Reid, J., et al(2018) The viscosity of organic particles in the atmosphere. Nature Communications 9(1), 956 http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41467-018-03027-z 

Plant Sciences

Research in Plant Science and Food Security at the University of Birmingham is focused on the genetic and cellular control of plant growth and development in model species, crops and their wild relatives using genomics, proteomics, systems biology and advanced light microscopy.

Some of the Plant Science and Food Security Team of course work with large 'woody' plants (trees). To follow is a summary:

Dr Graeme Kettles and Dr Estrella Luna-Diez joined the team recently, you can read more about their research related specifically to tree health in our Forest Health Research pages.

Prof Nigel Maxted is involved with Genetic Resources (GenRes) Bridge which aims to strengthen conservation and sustainable use of genetic resources by accelerating collaborative efforts and widening capacities in plant, forest and animal domains. The GenRes Bridge partnership gathers all expertise required to develop ambitious approaches and strategies for the management of crop, forest and animal genetic resources, foster biodiversity conservation and widen capacities across Europe and beyond.  The consortium encompasses partners who are renowned in their fields of GenRes management - such as forestry, botany or and have multidisciplinary interest and expertise to contribute to various work packages.

Prof Christine Foyer is an expert in plant metabolism and its regulation under optimal and stress conditions. Focusing particularly on reduction/oxidation (redox) biology, her lab investigates how primary processes (photosynthesis respiration) alter the redox status of the cell and associated phytohormone signalling under optimal and stress conditions. Using model (Arabidopsis) as well as crop plants (wheat, barley, maize soybean and tomato) Christine lab investigates plant responses to abiotic (drought, chilling, high light) and biotic (aphids) stresses.

Dr. Andrew Plackett joined the School of Biosciences on October 1st 2019 as a Royal Society University Research Fellow, studying plant evolution and developmental genetics.  The research goal of this five-year project is to identify genetic changes that underpinned the evolution of seeds and their associated reproductive structures in the seed-bearing plant lineage from a seedless ancestor, which is now most closely represented by the fern lineage. Two separate and divergent seed-bearing plant groups survive from a common evolutionary origin: the flowering plants, the developmental genetics of which are relatively well-studied, and 'naked' seed plants (gymnosperms) such as conifers, whose seed structure and reproductive development is more similar to early seed-bearing fossils than flowering plants but about which very little is still known from a genetic viewpoint. In collaboration with BIFoR, Andrew will be sampling reproductive tissues from conifer trees located on the BIFoR FACE experimental site belonging to the nascent model species Picea abies (Norway Spruce), to firstly ascertain the gene expression patterns associated with reproductive processes in conifers and then determine how these compare with a flowering plant genetic model (Arabidopsis thaliana) and a seedless fern (Ceratopteris richardii). From these comparisons, gene networks conserved from the common ancestor of all seed-bearing plants and genetic changes associated with the evolutionary origins of seeds will be identified for the first time

Recent Publications

De Vega D., Holden, N., Hedley P., Morris J.,  Luna-Diez E., and Newton A., (2020). Chitosan primes plant defence mechanisms against Botrytis cinerea, including expression of Avr9/Cf-9 rapidly-elicited genes.  Plant, Cell and Environment. 1–14. (* indicates corresponding authorship)

Luna E., Flandin A., Cassan C., Prigent S., Chevanne, Feyrouse Kadiri C., Gibon Y., Pétriacq P., (2020) Metabolomics to Exploit the Primed Immune System of Tomato Fruit. Metabolites. 10 (3), 96

Kettles, G. J., et al (2018) Analysis of small RNA silencing in Zymoseptoria tritici– wheat interactions. bioRxiv, 501650. doi:10.1101/501650

Foyer, C.H., and Noctor, G. (2019) Redox homeostasis and signalling in a higher CO2 world. Annual Review of Plant Biology, In Press.

 

School of English, Drama and Creative Studies  

Prof John Holmes, is a Professor of Victorian Literature and Culture. His research focuses on the relationship between scientific ideas and cultural forms in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, including poetry, architecture and the visual arts. Prof Holmes is a supervisor for Forest Edge student Dion Dobrzynski. Dion's initial PhD draft title is 'Forest Ecology in Fantasy Fiction: Mobilising the Imaginative Resources of Fantasy Fiction for Living with Forests'. 

Prof Alexandra Harris enjoys thinking and writing about British art and literature of all periods, especially in relation to landscape, locality and the presence of the past. Dr Matthew Ward's work focuses on British Romanticism, and the literature and intellectual history of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Prof Harris and Dr Ward are supervisors for Forest Edge student Thomas Kay. Thomas's initial PhD draft title is "Where the Wildwoods respire". 

 

School of History and Cultures

Birmingham Fellow, Dr Frank Uekötter, is working on environmental issues, both past and present, in a global context. He has published a book about the Green Germany, which is a synthesis on German environmental history as well as a reflection on where environmentalism is standing in the twenty-first century. Frank is building a research group on the global world of monoculture that seeks to understand why production systems all over the world, from coniferous forests in central Europe to soybeans in Brazil are tilting towards a reliance on a single crop during the modern era. The working argument is that there may be something akin to a “mind of monoculture,” which we can observe in very different societies all over the world.

The work of Dr Louise Hardwick, a specialist in ecocriticism and a reader in Francophone Postcolonial Studies, contributes to the institute’s research into how to improve our understanding of the societal values surrounding forests and biodiversity. More information about Dr Hardwick’s research is available online.

School of Mathematics 

PhD student Bradley Deeley’s research involves developing a mathematical and computational model of biological invasion, to predict how invasive plants will be spreading when the landscape conditions in the forest are changed by building a road. The main hypothesis he will investigate is that roads provide an ideal environment for invasive species to spread.

PhD student Clare Ziegler uses cutting-edge statistical and simulation tools to analyse lab and ecosystem observations of root structure, to elucidate the micro- and mesoscopic physical role of elevated carbon budgets.

School of Psychology

PhD student Eszter Toth, is in her second year of study, her research project entitled ‘Processing of emotional faces after forest versus city exposure’ aims to determine whether:

•Exposure to nature can promote better emotional regulation. 
•Exposure to nature improves recognition of others’ emotions.