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Recent Environmental Change and Biodiversity

The Recent Environmental Change and Biodiversity cluster is based within UCL Department of Geography and incorporates UCL’s world-renowned Environmental Change Research Centre (ECRC) together with leading researchers in tropical ecology. It combines neo- and palaeoecological approaches, biogeochemical cycling and environmental modelling to explore ecosystem structure, spatial and temporal functions and processes, and to inform national and international legislation and policy. The aims of this research cluster include: 1. assessment of terrestrial and aquatic biodiversity and its role in ecosystem functioning in relation to external stressors; 2. use of long-term biological and biogeochemical data and lake sediment records to assess environmental change over decadal to centennial timescales; and 3. quantification of the drivers of environmental change with particular reference to the role of climate in modifying ecosystem behaviour. This work is organised into several sub-themes:

1. Biodiversity and conservation: understanding the drivers of biodiversity and community structure in flood-pulsed wetlands, nutrient-enriched shallow lakes and tropical and temperate mountain ecosystems; new approaches to biodiversity conservation and the role of management in aquatic biodiversity conservation within agricultural landscapes; the global structure of diatom communities.

2. Freshwater contamination and recovery: chemical and biological recovery pathways following surface water acidification including confounding factors related to climate change; establishing reference conditions for lakes impacted by eutrophication; pollutant deposition, transport and source allocation to remote areas including circumpolar regions.

3. Impact of recent climate change on freshwater ecosystems: the complexity of ecosystem responses to synchronous changes in nutrients and climate in lowland lakes and the role of recent climate change on remobilisation of legacy trace metals through upland soil erosion.

4. Forest ecosystem dynamics: quantifying tropical forest structure and carbon stocks; estimation of total carbon sinks for world forests and the sensitivity of carbon fluxes in tropical forests to specific drought events. Climate change signals in temperate forest plant communities.

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