Our research expertise
Our researchers specialise in a range of areas that complement one another and lead to research that will change how we manage land, grow crops sustainably and protect our environment.
You can find out more about our research expertise via the list below, or alternatively, get in touch with the area contacts.
Mycorrhizal fungal ecology
Most terrestrial plants have coevolved with mycorrhizal fungi on their roots, this symbiotic relationship enables plants to efficiently acquire nutrients from the soil and is essential for sustaining plant communities. Our work focuses on understanding how mycorrhizal plants and fungi interact to exchange nutrients and other molecules, the role of mycorrhizal fungi in sustaining ecosystems (including forests, heathlands, grasslands and many agricultural systems), and quantifying the diversity of mycorrhizal fungi across different scales under contrasting environmental conditions. Specifically, a recent focus of our work is on understanding the consequences of genotypic and species diversity of mycorrhizal fungi for regulating ecosystem processes, including the discovery that plant host identity and environmental conditions strongly influence ectomycorrhizal fungal diversity. Our work uses cutting-edge molecular and isotopic techniques alongside classical methods in highly controlled experimental systems through to large scale forest plots. You can hear Dr Filipa Cox discussing her recent UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship and Professor David Johnson talking about fungi to Melvyn Bragg for In our Time on BBC Radio 4.
Listen to In our Time on BBC Radio 4
Soil is essential for humanity's existence on earth so it is important that we understand how different soils function. Our research explores this and how soils provide the numerous ecosystem services that we rely on. A key focus of our work is on soil biology; soils are vast reservoirs of biodiversity playing home to bacteria, fungi, archaea and myriad invertebrates. We use molecular, biochemical and microscopic tools to test how environmental and anthropogenic factors regulate soil biodiversity. Some of our recent discoveries show that soil bacterial networks are more susceptible to drought than fungal networks, and that shifts in plant cover and soil acidification during ecosystem development are associated with changes in below-ground biodiversity over time. Our work typically involves combines data on soil physical, chemical and biological properties in ecosystems across the globe including tropical rainforests, arctic tundra, boreal forests, grasslands and peatlands. Watch our short YouTube video to find out more.
Watch the YouTube video