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Ecosystem research groups

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Our work

The Ecosystems Laboratory, led by Prof. Yadvinder Malhi, seeks to understand how contemporary ecosystems function and how they may be affected by direct human pressures and global atmospheric change. This work spans the natural and social sciences, and the tools we employ in our research include:

  • Intensive field observation of carbon, water and nutrient cycling; vegetation and soil properties; plant ecophysiology; and climate.
  • Multi decadal and large scale monitoring and analysis of ecosystem structure, composition and dynamics.
  • Interdisciplinary studies of socio-ecological systems at agricultural and forest frontiers.
  • Quantitative modelling of ecosystem ecophysiology and biogeochemical cycling.
  • Satellite remote sensing at local, regional and global scales.
  • Macro-ecological analysis of plant function and traits.

Our interests are global, but we have particularly active research in tropical forests and savannas around the world, also in our local field site at Wytham Woods.

Current projects

  • Funding: NERC, ERC, GeoCarbon and Oxford Martin School
  • 2012-2018
  • PI: Professor Yadvinder Malhi

GEM: Global Ecosystem Monitoring Network

The Global Ecosystem Monitoring network (GEM) is an international effort to measure and understand forest ecosystem functions and traits, and how these will respond to climate change.

GEM Trait campaign
  • Funding: European Research Council Advanced Investigator Award and Peruvian part by a NERC grant
  • 2013-2018
  • PI: Professor Yadvinder Malhi


The GEM team has collected extensive data on the carbon cycle of forests along the Andes to Amazon transect since 2009. In 2013, the GEM-TRAIT project will focus on the same plots along the elevational transect, with the overall goal to collect primary data on tree functional diversity.

  • Funding: NERC (2011-2014) and the European Research Council (ERC), and also a new grant from the Leverhulme-Royal Society Africa Programme (2014-2016)
  • 2011-2016
  • PI: Professor Yadvinder Malhi


As part of our global network of intensive plots and plant traits collection, we are working on a gradient in Ghana ranging from wet rainforest (Ankasa National Park) through semideciduous forest (Bobiri Experimental Forest) through to forest-savanna transition (Kogyae Wildlife Reserve). Along this gradient we are studying the relationships between drought, biodiversity and ecosystem function.

Forest monitoring Photo: Jake Bryant, Envirofoto
  • Funding: European Union, NERC, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and the European Research Council
  • Since 2001
  • ECI Lead: Professor Yadvinder Malhi


Three international long-term monitoring networks established to monitor the biomass and dynamics of Amazonian, African and SE Asian forests.

  • Funding: NERC
  • 2013-2018
  • ECI Lead: Professor Yadvinder Malhi

Biodiversity and Ecosystem Functioning in Degraded and Recovering Amazonian and Atlantic Forests (ECOFOR)

This project looks at the links between biodiversity and ecosytem function along forest disturbance gradients in Brazil, one site in the costal Atlantic Forest of the Serra do Mar in Sao Paulo state, and the second main site in the Amazon Forest near Santarem, Para. The work will involve installing intensive monitoring plots in both sites, and collected information on plant traits and also bird communities.

  • Funding: SAFE: primary funding from Sime Darby Foundation | BALI: NERC
  • SAFE: BALI: 2013-2017
  • ECI Lead: Professor Yadvinder Malhi

Stability of Altered Forest Ecosystems (SAFE) and BALI

The SAFE project explores how forest biodiversity and ecosystem function vary along a gradient from intact forests (Maliau Basin), through to logged forest, fragmented forest and oil palm plantations in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo. In association with the SAFE, the BALI project (Biodiversity and Land Use Impacts on Tropical Ecosystem Function) is a large NERC funded consortium project looking at the interactions between biodiversity and biogeochemical functioning along disturbance gradients in Borneo.


Exploring the ecosystem limits to poverty alleviation in African forest-agriculture landscapes (ECOLIMITS)

ECOLIMITS is a consortium project looking at ecosystem services, degradation and links to poverty in the cocoa farm and forest landscape around Kakum National Park, Ghana, and the coffee growing landscape of south-western Ethiopia.

Completed Projects

Full list of archived ecosystem related projects.