Seeds are planted into soil by hand

Soil, Plant & Land Systems

Group Leader: Professor Nick Ostle

Our research is focused on the effects of global change and human activity on the form and function of terrestrial systems.

The Soil, Plant & Landscape Systems Group consists of leading academics and researchers working across disciplines, and internationally, to address uncertainties regarding the impacts of environmental change on natural and managed ecosystems. We work with, and train, UK and international students and researchers to improve knowledge, skills, outcomes and impact.

Research Questions

Specific research questions include - How resilient are plant-soil systems to climate change? What are the ecosystem impacts of land use change? How can soils help our ambition for a circular nutrient economy? Will global soils sequester climate mitigating carbon? How can we communicate our science effectively? How to make agricultural systems more sustainable? How do we protect ecosystems from degradation and pollution? How do we balance agricultural production and environmental quality? How does urbanisation effect plant-soil ecosystems? How can we manage renewable energies to co-benefit ecosystem services? What controls greenhouse gas emissions from tropical wetlands, tropical and sub-tropical forests? Can we restore damaged ecosystems?

The Bowland Fells

Our Approach

Our research is truly global with projects and partners in the UK, Africa, Asia, South America, North America and Europe. We use state-of-the-art technologies in the field and laboratory such as the Soils and Ecosystem Ecology Research Laboratory within Lancaster Environment Centre, and those of our partners in the Centre For Ecology and Hydrology and around the world. We innovate with novel large scale and international field experiments. We measure, model and predict the impacts of change on ecosystem functions. Our well-resourced laboratories are fully equipped with instrumentation for plant-soil and ecosystem biogeochemical, hydrological, microbial and ecological research.

Beyond Europe we have strong collaborative links-partnerships and ongoing research in Panama (STRI), Brazil (UFLA), Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda (CIFOR),  Peru (University of Huancayo), Ghana (LU Ghana and CSIR), Nigeria (University of Benin, CGE Nigeria, National Commission of Energy and Environment), Malaysia (Forest Research), China (SCAU, Chinese Academy of Sciences), the Argentine National Scientific and Technical Research Council (CONICET)... Our research is funded by UKRI, NERC, BBSRC, EPSRC, EU, Royal Society, Defra, BEIS, Leverhulme, GCRF, IFAD, German Science Foundation. We work in collaboration with stakeholders within the UK and overseas to deliver changes in policy and practice, including SMEs, big businesses, NGOs, and Government.

One of the laboratories in the Environment Centre

Members

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Projects

Soil-Value: Valuing and enhancing soil infrastructure to improve societal sustainability and resilience
01/06/2016 → 31/05/2021
Research

Solar Park Impacts on Ecosystem services : a Framework for Best Practice (SPIES)
01/01/2016 → 30/06/2017
Research

Biodiversity, Ecosystem Functions and Policy Across a Tropical Forest Modification Gradient
01/04/2014 → 30/03/2019
Research

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

Dual Land-Use for Solar Energy and Food Production
01/10/2013 → 30/09/2016
Research

LPIA: Developing collaborations to facilitate the optimal deployment of terrestrial solar farms
01/07/2013 → 30/06/2014
Research

Piloting a Cost-Effective Framework for Monitoring Soil Erosion in England and Wales
01/06/2013 → 31/05/2016
Research

Analysis and simulation of the long term/large scale interactions of C, N and P in UK land, freshwater and atmosphere
12/11/2012 → 11/11/2015
Research

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

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

Implementing Component 2 of Demonstration Test Catchments
01/06/2012 → 30/09/2017
Research

Diversity in Upland Rivers for Ecosystem Service Sustainability - DURESS
01/05/2012 → 30/06/2016
Research

ECSG: The effect of direct and diffusion radiation on carbon cycling and plant productivity
01/05/2012 → 30/09/2014
Research

Establishing the impact of vegetation on DOC concentrations in the context of peatland management and the mechanisms responsible
20/03/2010 → 18/04/2010
Research

MOPS 2
01/04/2008 → 30/09/2013
Research

Research Highlights

Forest grazing and flood risk
Grazing animals within forests counteract the effectiveness of trees to reduce flood risk a new study shows.

Coffee power
A Lancaster University student’s masters’ dissertation offers new commercial possibilities for turning waste coffee grounds into biofuel.

Prizewinning PhD researcher
A football themed presentation into how long arable soils will last in the UK wins an early career researcher a top prize from the British Society of Soil Science.

Businesses must do more to take action on soil, Lancaster sustainability expert argues in latest edition of Nature
Companies are unaware of the huge risks they face from soil degradation.

Taking dung beetles to Glastonbury
Sex & Bugs & Rock ’n Roll wins researcher a British Ecological Society public engagement prize.

Soil security fellow
Mountaineering researcher wins a prestigious fellowship to study how a changing climate could affect the role of mountains as global carbon sinks.

A systems approach to farming
Agronomist models farming systems to explore how they can help fulfil the world’s competing environmental, food security and social goals.