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The consequences of global change on the provision of terrestrial and marine ecosystem services and on the organisms that provide those services represent a priority research area in the field of natural science and a key theme within the Institute for Life Sciences.

Bioturbation, an important ecosystem process for nutrient & carbon cycling in sediments, caused by the brittlestar Amphiura filiformis & seen as the burial of fluorescent particles layered on sediment
Bioturbation of sediments

Ecosystem services represent the mechanisms by which the Earth’s ecosystems provide goods and resources, including materials and food, clean water and air, which humans exploit.  Increasingly, the provision of ecosystem services is being recognised as a metric by which the quality status of different ecosystems can be assessed but also as a predictor of the potential impacts of environmental change.

Fundamentally however, the mechanistic link between environmental change and the ecosystem services is mediated hierarchically through changes to the physiological performance of individual organisms and thence species and community interactions.  Research within the Ecosystem Services theme therefore encompasses the assessments of the effects of environmental changes on organism physiology.

IfLS researchers in this theme employ a range of techniques from genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics, metabolomics and lipodomics, X-Ray analyses, NMR, electrophysiology and carbon flux measurements to address the following specific areas:

1) quantifying changes in macro- and micro-nutrient and carbon fluxes in marine and terrestrial systems;

2) identifying the impacts of climate change on organism physiology, performance, health, and the incidence of disease;

3) identifying the consequences of anthropogenic impacts, including pollution, to species and in multi-trophic systems;

4) quantifying the value of ecosystem services in securing global food security and human well-being, and the spatial and temporal scales at which they operate.

For more information about the Ecosystems theme please contact the theme leads below:

Related Staff Member

Related Staff Member

The Institute funds a cohort of interdisciplinary PhD studentships each year. Current postgraduate students in this field include:

Photo of Fabrizia Ratto
Interdisciplinary research enables us to explore new unfamiliar territories, gain knowledge from different fields and form more well-rounded researchers
Fabrizia RattoIfLS PhD: Estimating the net economic consequences of losing pollination services

Key Publications

Coastal Biodiversity & Ecosystem Service Sustainability

NERC research programme, supported by BBSRC, designed to answer fundamental questions about the functional role of biodiversity in key ecosystem processes and the delivery of ecosystem processes at the landscape scale.


Monitoring water quality parameters as part of the INCORALS project
The NOCS coral laboratory


EU-funded, INCORALS will establish a novel conceptual model that introduces a transition of symbiotic algae from a nutrient limited to a nutrient starved state as a process that renders reef building corals more susceptible to heat stress.




A euryhaline hyperosmoregulator being studied in the UK NERC SALOA project
The shore crab Carcinus maenas
A euryhaline osmoconformer being studied in the UK NERC SALOA project
The edible crab Cancer pagurus

SALOA Climate change and the costs of survival in two species of marine crabs with contrasting abilities to compensate for environmental change.

A NERC-funded project which will examine the combined effects of two important climate change variables: pCO2 and salinity, on the survival and performance of two species of marine brachyuran crabs with differing abilities to compensate for environmental change.


ASSETS: Attaining sustainable services from ecosystems.

An ecosystem service approach to quantifying the role of freshwater biodiversity in supporting food security. Quantifying linkages between livelihoods, freshwater biodiversity, and drivers of food security and other ecosystem services.


High pressure quaria being used as part of the MIDAS project
IPOCAMP Hyberbaric aquaria

MIDAS Managing Impacts of Deep-seA reSource exploitation

EC funded – a multidisciplinary research programme that will investigate the environmental impacts of extracting mineral and energy resources from the deep-sea environment.

List of related projects to
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