A large bird wit black feathers and green eyes

Ecology and Conservation

Group Leader: Professor Jos Barlow

Ecology and conservation at Lancaster Environment Centre use ecological, behavioural and molecular techniques to understand how ecosystems function, how they respond to global change, and how they can be managed to enhance biodiversity and its associated services.

The ecology and conservation of hyper-diverse tropics

Our work in the hyper-diverse tropics focuses on both forests and coral reefs, where we examine how human activities are influencing species conservation, ecosystem functioning and the livelihoods of local people. Within reefs, this research examines how bleaching events influence fish assemblages, ecosystem stability, and ecosystem recovery. Within tropical forests, we are examining how fires and logging influence species of conservation concern and forest resilience.

Insect biodiversity and global change

We are investigating how environmental change affects insect biodiversity and ecosystem functions and services such as pollination and pest control. We undertake observational studies on how individual species and whole communities are responding to climate change and habitat degradation and use field manipulations and lab experiments to unravel the mechanisms underlying their responses.

Ecology of host-parasite interactions

We are studying the ecological and evolutionary interactions between parasites and their animal hosts. This includes fundamental studies of how the immune system evolves and phenotypically responds to challenges by parasites, as well as the development and use of biological pesticides to improve food security. Study systems include insects, birds and mammals and their bacterial, viral and nematode parasites in the UK and Africa, especially African armyworms and their viruses.

Behavioural ecology

We examine breeding and behavioural ecology using birds as a readily observable group of species which can provide data at the level of the individual. These studies allow us to understand life-history constraints of species in the face of climate change, and explore fundamental questions such as parent-offspring conflict, song development and sibling competition.

Carbon and nutrient cycling

We examine carbon cycling across many terrestrial systems, including tropical and temperate forests, grasslands and moorlands. The research examines how climate, soil, microbes and biogeochemistry interact to affect nutrient cycling, developing an understanding of how ecosystems function and quantifying their likely feedbacks with climate change.


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Research visiting academic grant -University of Granada (Spain)
01/04/2016 → 30/06/2016

Linking trophic dynamics and infochemical foodwebs: disentangling the mechanisms underlining above- and belowground multitrophic interactions (TRINFOWEB)
01/01/2016 → 31/12/2019

Santander mobility award-Lancaster University
01/01/2016 → 31/12/2016

Tri-trophic interactions in an arid environment: I am I eating what I want or what I can?
01/01/2016 → 31/12/2019

NERC - Watershed determinants of terrestrial resource use by aquatic organisms across the world's freshwater hotspots
01/09/2014 → …

Ecosystem carbon and nutrient dynamics under global change
01/04/2014 → …

Predicting urban food insecurity under climate change in Brazilian Amazonia
01/01/2014 → 31/12/2017

Santander mobility award-Lancaster University
01/01/2014 → 31/12/2014

NERC studentship for Lucy Magoolagan
01/10/2013 → 31/03/2017

Priming of Indirect Defence in Plants
17/06/2013 → 16/03/2014

Algal Interactions with Freshwater Mussels in the River Ehen
22/03/2013 → 31/03/2019

Ecological cost of herbivory: disruption of mutualism interactions between plants and pollinators due to herbivores.
15/02/2013 → 15/02/2016

Integrating Nutritional Immunology
03/02/2013 → 02/02/2016

Identifying Cost-Effective Reforestation Approaches for Biodiversity Conservation and Carbon Sequest
01/01/2013 → 31/12/2013

Presentation of the Survey Project Results
17/09/2012 → 30/09/2012

Ecological Continuity Trust: Establishing a Consortium Application
05/09/2012 → 31/12/2013

CASE: Understanding pesticide photdegraduation and persistance in protected crop environments
01/10/2011 → …

NERC - Manipulating the chemosynthetic and photosynthetic support of river food webs
01/01/2011 → 15/07/2015

Percy Sladen - Kenyan freshwater decapods: invasive - native interactions
01/10/2010 → 30/09/2014

NERC - NE/H525911/1
01/09/2009 → 31/08/2011

The role of antagonist and mutualist interactions in regulating trophic food webs in arid ecosystems
01/01/2009 → 31/12/2012

Link Project: Perennial field margins with combined ecological and ag
01/12/2008 → 30/11/2013

Understanding the ways in which climate change could threaten northerly distributed species
01/01/2008 → 31/12/2009

NERC - Open CASE Organotin trophic transfer in freshwater food webs
01/10/2007 → 30/09/2010

Understanding potential effects of climate change on dung beetle communities in subtropical rainforest
01/01/2007 → 31/12/2007

The role of dung beetle assemblages in dung removal and decomposition, secondary seed dispersal, and seed germination along a biogeographical and climatological gradient
01/01/1900 → …

Research Highlights

A coral collaboration
A long term collaboration between a Lancaster professor and an Australian conservationist has produced a unique insight into the ecology and management of coral reefs

Coral bleaching
The window for saving the world’s coral reefs from global warming is rapidly closing, according to a novel study in the prestigious journal Science

Going back to university
A prizewinning student gave up a successful teaching career to become a student, just as her son was starting school

World's most influential researchers
Two Lancaster Environment Centre researchers have been listed in the 2017 Clarivate Analytics Highly Cited Researchers list of scientists who have had significant global impact

Small is biodiverse in the Amazon
Amazonian streams found teeming with fish species are lacking protection

Life on the Edge
Breaking up the rainforest into small, isolated patches is forcing more species to live at the forest edge, putting those that are dependent on the forest core at risk

Selective logging threatens biodiversity
A new study finds that even low levels of logging in the Amazon rainforest may lead to great losses in biodiversity

Bees feast on fast food
Honey bees love the invasive plant Himalayan balsam and eat it like ‘fast food’ but, like humans, they thrive better on a varied diet

The ‘Hollywood effect’
Scientists should work with film makers to highlight conservation issues and help wildlife

Why development fails in the Amazon
Only local Amazonians can bring true sustainable development to their forest as protected areas, species and people come under increasing threat

Armyworm biopesticide moves closer
Researchers win funding to push forward the production of a cheap, effective and locally-produced biopesticide to combat one of Africa’s major crop pests.

Cities threaten rainforest wildlife
Urban food demand in the Amazon could be hitting wildlife up to 1,000 km away from the city, according to new research.

Studying butterflies in the field
A double prizewinning graduate shows how changing habitat management could help reverse the decline of some of the UK’s signature butterflies.

How early environment affects the quality of a dipper’s song
Successful PhD student Dr Lucy Magoolagan explains why her research, on the song of Britain’s only aquatic songbird, captured the imagination of the producers of the BBC Springwatch programme.

Remote Amazonian cities more vulnerable to climate change
Amazonians living in remote cities are more vulnerable to flooding and droughts than more accessible centres, researchers at Lancaster University have discovered.

Poor diet may contribute to the decline in British bees
The changing British landscape could be contributing to the decline in our bee populations, according to Lancaster University research.

Human threat to grassland ecosystems
A manmade pollutant is having a significant impact on our global environment according to a new study published in ‘Ecology’ this month (June 2015).