Oxford Long-Term Ecology Lab

Long-Term Ecology, Biodiversity Conservation, and Environmental Stewardship Technologies

Our research aims to determine the causes and consequences of changes in species, populations, communities, landscapes and ecosystems from seasonal to millennial time-scales. We use a variety of biological and chemical techniques to reconstruct the long-term biodiversity and ecosystem dynamics from pollen and plant microfossils to tree-rings and historical datasets.

Fossil data

Only fossil remains, from tiny phytoplankton to mammoth bones, can reliably reconstruct the presence, abundance and biomass of ancient organisms through space and time. We have particular expertise in the analysis of fossil pollen, fungal spores, charcoal, diatoms, sub-fossil insects and the bio- and geo-chemistry of sediments and the fossilised organisms contained therein. Together, these data provide information on the components of past ecosystems that we use to model biotic interactions, the impacts of biota on their environment, and their response to environmental change at local to global spatial scales. This research provides new insights into the ecological context in which organisms thrived or became extinct, which is fed into ecosystem management policies and tools aimed at conserving or re-establishing important ecological processes.


Tree-rings provide a living record of species-specific responses to ecosystem changes spanning decades to millennia. We measure seasonal to annual tree ring growth and corresponding wood chemistry to determine individual and stand-scale responses to changing growing conditions. These records allow us to test hypotheses about the biotic and abiotic controls on long-term plant growth and survival in the face of regional and global environmental change. We are particularly interested in the impacts of climate and atmospheric change on plant growth rates in temperate and cold environments.

Palaeo-Trophic Cascades (PACE)

The extinction of a number of large herbivores (e.g. Mammuthus primigenius, woolly mammoth and Megaloceros giganteus, giant deer) at the end of the Pleistocene epoch ... Continue reading

Paleo-Progressive Nitrogen Limitation (PNL)

Is nitrogen (N) availability to plants increasing or decreasing over time?  Global environmental changes such as N deposition, climate warming and increasing atmospheric CO2 concentrations are ... Continue reading

The Global Pollen Project

The Global Pollen Project is an initiative with two main strands. First, it provides a platform for people working with pollen to get help with ... Continue reading

The Role of Soil Nutrients in Arctic Greening

The overarching research aim of this thesis was to assess whether recently observed shrub productivity trends in Arctic ecosystems may have been influenced by long-term nitrogen ... Continue reading

Restoring native biological diversity in the Galápagos Islands: determination of baseline ecological conditions

The Galápagos Islands are a National Park, UNESCO World Heritage site and Biosphere Reserve and are globally renowned both for their ecological value ... Continue reading

Forest Conservation in a Changing World: using palaeoecology to improve the effectiveness of conservation planning in the Apuseni Mountain, NW Romania

One region in Europe where there are still exceptionally large tracts of 'undisturbed' natural temperate forests is in Romania. In order to plan ... Continue reading

Linking soil management to ecosystem functions and services in oil palm plantings

The rapid expansion of oil palm cultivation in Southeast Asia in the past decades has led to deforestation, loss of biological diversity, poor water quality ... Continue reading

Resilience of Tropical Peat Swamp Forests

Tropical peat swamp forests are undergoing some of the most rapid rates of deforestation and land use change on earth.  As well as being rich ... Continue reading

Holocene tree-cover in Europe and implications for re-wilding strategies

This thesis addresses the methodological challenges of determining the variability of large herbivore populations through time and their impact on ... Continue reading

Resilience of Southeast Asian Lowland Rainforest to large-scale climatic changes

Dipterocarp forests of Southeast Asia are one of the oldest and most diverse forests on the planet. Due to their high timber value they have ... Continue reading

Disturbance regimes in Central African Rainforests

The Central African forest is the second largest contiguous forest area in the world, hosting the highest diversity of large mammals (Primack and Corlett 2005). ... Continue reading

80,000 years of climate change and forest resilience in the Eastern Mediterranean

This research aimed to systematically investigate the influence of climate variability on vegetation dynamics and landscape processses in the Bekaa Valley and on the Lebanon ... Continue reading

Optimising Protected Area Networks in Europe

Europe not only contains multiple biogeographic regions and considerable habitat space for biodiversity, but also boasts a plethora of conservation designations on various levels of ... Continue reading

Long Term Biodiversity Change of Canary Islands

The ancient forests of Macaronesia (Canary Islands and Cape Verde) and their sensitivity to environmental change... Continue reading

Floods & Droughts: Environmental Dynamics in the Upper Zambezi Valley

This is a 3 year Leverhulme Trust funded project (commencing October 2010) in collaboration with Professor David Thomas and Professor Kathy Willis focused on environmental ... Continue reading