School of GeoSciences

School of GeoSciences

GCEL: Global Change Ecology Lab

The Global Change Ecology Lab studies the terrestrial carbon cycle and its links to global change. We investigate the interactions of plant and soil processes across environmental and biodiversity gradients from the tropics to the Arctic. We use process based modelling and data assimilation methods to extract information from detailed ecosystem measurements on feedback processes between soil, vegetation and the atmosphere, over timescales from days to years. Linking to remote sensing data, we use models to upscale process information to investigate landscape processes. We focus particularly on issues relating to the drought sensitivity of forests, the role of disturbance (fire or anthropogenic) on forest biomass, and the sensitivity of Arctic ecosystems to warming. Understanding and simulating the non-steady state behaviour of ecosystems is a current focal interest.


Our most recent papers include:

Bloom, A.B., J-F Exbrayat , I. R. van der Velde , L. Feng , M. Williams (2016) The decadal state of the terrestrial carbon cycle: global retrievals of terrestrial carbon allocation, pools and residence times. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 113: 1285-1290.

Jeff Exbrayat and Mathew Williams (2015) Quantifying the net contribution of the Amazonian deforestation to climate change, Geophysical Research Letters 42: 2968–2976.

Smallman, T.L., M. Williams and J. B. Moncrieff (2014) Can seasonal and interannual variation in landscape CO2 fluxes be detected by atmospheric observations of CO2 concentrations made at a tall tower? Biogeosciences, 11, 735-747.


We use an array of models including:
The Soil-Plant-Atmosphere model (SPA)
The DALEC model
The GapFire model
The JULES model

We also use a variety of numerical tools including:
The Ensemble Kalman Filter
The Metropolis-Hastings MCMC method

Projects and Collaborations

We are involved in a range of research projects including:
GREENHOUSE, a NERC funded programme on Greenhouse Gas Emissions
CYCLOPS, a NERC funded study on Arctic biophysics and biogeochemistry
Forests 2020, a UK Space Agency project led by Ecometrica
The UK National Centre for Earth Observation (NCEO)
Biodiversity and land use interactions in tropical forest (NERC funded)
ATEC, advanced technologies for enhancing crop production, a BBSRC/NERC project
Membrane, a Newton Fund project with UK Met Office to enhance modelling of Brazilian biomes
Arctic carbon cycling and global change, partnered with Aarhus University


We are: Mathew Williams, Luke Smallman, Darren Slevin, Jeff Exbrayat, Andrew Revill, Kasia Sawicka, Sophie Flack, David Milodowski, Ebuka Nwobi, Efrén Lopez Blanco, Ewan Cornforth, Felix Trotter