UCL Department of Geography


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Recent Environmental Change and Biodiversity (RECB)


The RECB brings together physical geographers and environmental scientists to determine the drivers and impacts of environmental and biodiversity change over a range of spatial and temporal scales. RECB involves many of the people and activities of the Environmental Change Research Centre (ECRC), and with our in-house environmental consultancy Ensis Ltd, we have over 30 years’ experience in conducting long-term chemical and biological monitoring and using natural archives such as sediment records to reconstruct pressures and responses in both terrestrial and aquatic systems. We use these to inform policy and conservation practice with respect to environmental change and biodiversity loss.

Our research on environmental change relates to: Responses of fresh waters to eutrophication in terms of function and delivery of ecosystem services (Helen Bennion, Carl Sayer); the Recovery of Surface Waters from Acidification (Ewan Shilland, Rick Battarbee, Neil Rose) using long-term monitoring techniques to track chemical and biological change and assess confounding factors; enhancing our understanding of the spatial and temporal distributions of Environmental Contamination by Toxic Substances and their impact on aquatic biota (Neil Rose, Simon Turner, Handong Yang); and the Impacts of Climate Change on Freshwater Ecosystems and the implications for mitigation and EU Water Framework Directive compliance (Helen Bennion, Simon Turner).

Our Freshwater Biodiversity research includes wetland ecology, habitat connectivity and conservation management, often combining field-based surveys with palaeoecology and biological databases to track ecological patterns and processes and to inform restoration  (Helen Bennion, Viv Jones, Anson Mackay, Carl Sayer, Jan Axmacher, Ambroise Baker, Ben Goldsmith, Roger Flower). Our multi-trophic Forest and Agricultural Biodiversity research focuses on invertebrate and vascular plant assemblages and the distribution of invasive plant species (Jan Axmacher), while our Changing Ecology of Tropical Forests focus uses long-term phytodemographic inventory plots ( and, vegetation and invertebrate surveys as well as new technology-led methods such as laser scanning and remote sensing to provide insights into functional trajectories of the tropical forest biome (Simon Lewis, Jan Axmacher, Mat Disney).

Our science directly underpins practical conservation and restoration action through the UCL Pond Restoration Group and the Aquatic Restoration Partnership which aims to restore lost and fragmented pond networks and their biota, especially in agricultural landscapes. Through Ensis, we work extensively with UK and devolved governmental departments and many other national and regional public bodies. Other strong links to public-engagement include participation in the Open Air Laboratories project. The RECB also runs the UCL Environmental Radiometric Facility (Handong Yang, Neil Rose).

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