Search site

School of Geography

Archived news

Vanishing glaciers of Everest

‘Most of the glaciers on Everest are covered in debris,’ says Duncan Quincey, a glaciologist at the School of Geography, University of Leeds. ‘This layer of rock and detritus, which at the terminus can be the height of a room, can affect how the glaciers grow and retreat.’

Since 2003, a collaboration of researchers from the Universities of Aberystwyth, Sheffield and Hertfordshire have been improving data about debris-covered glaciers in the Himalayas. Debris-free (clean ice) glaciers grow forwards and melt backwards seasonally and are generally seeing a net retreat as the climate warms up. ‘Debris glaciers, on the other hand,’ says Quincey, ‘go up and down. But not a lot is known about how fast they will recede as the climate changes.’

Find out more

Why Carbon Is the Best Marker for the New Human Epoch

Fire ranks among humanity's oldest and most powerful tools. Now the residue from all the oil and coal burned to power modern civilization may provide the best marker for the start of a new geologic epoch that highlights Homo sapiens’s world-changing impact, known as the Anthropocene, or "new age of humans."

"We're actually changing and continuing to change how the Earth system functions and leaving markers that could still be found in a million years time," says Earth scientist Karen Bacon of the School of Geography, University of Leeds in England. "That's quite incredible to think about."

Find out more

Volcanic ash found in Yorkshire could help to improve flight safety forecasts

Predictions of where planes can safely fly following volcanic eruptions could be improved, thanks to fresh discoveries about ash clouds.

To study the size of ash grains and how far they can travel, scientists at the Met Office and the Universities of Leeds, Edinburgh and Iceland, compared grains recovered from recent Icelandic eruptions – including samples recovered in Yorkshire –  with satellite measurements of ash clouds.

Their findings, published today in Atmospheric Measurement Techniques, will help to improve methods of mapping ash concentration in order to identify zones where it is safe to fly during future eruptions.  Hundreds of flights were cancelled in 2010 and 2011 following volcanic activity in Iceland because of the danger that volcanic ash posed to aircraft and their engines.

In the new study, researchers studied volcanic ash recovered in the UK from the recent Eyjafjallajökull and Grímsvötn eruptions, as well as prehistoric samples from peat bogs in Yorkshire, Scotland and Ireland. Another sample, from an 1875 eruption, had been in a museum for 140 years.  The researchers found that grains were much larger than what had been typically estimated by satellite measurements of ash clouds – even moderately-sized eruptions could disperse large grains as far as the UK.

Study co-author Dr Graeme Swindles, from the School of Geography at the University of Leeds, said: “Microscopic volcanic ash layers preserved in Yorkshire peat bogs and mud at the bottom of lakes, far from volcanoes, are providing much needed information on the characteristics of ash clouds. These records show us that Europe was hit by volcanic ash clouds very frequently in the past.”

Find out more



Amazon: 1% of tree species store 50% of region's carbon

About 1% of all the tree species in the Amazon account for half of the carbon locked in the vast South American rainforest, a study has estimated.Although the region is home to an estimated 16,000 tree species, researchers found that just 182 species dominated the carbon storage process. Amazonia is vital to the Earth's carbon cycle, storing more of the element than any other terrestrial ecosystem. The findings appear in the journal Nature Communications.

"Considering that the Amazon is massively important for the global carbon cycle and stores so much of the planet's biomass, finding out just how that carbon is stored and produced is very important if we want to understand what might happen in the future in different environmental conditions," explained co-author Sophie Fauset from the School of Geography, University of Leeds.

The tropical forest covers an estimated 5.3 million sq km and holds 17% of the global terrestrial vegetation carbon stock.The findings build on a study published in Science in October 2013 that found that despite being home to an estimated 390 billion trees - made up by 16,000 species - just 227 "hyperdominant" species accounted for half of Amazonia's total trees.

Dr Fauset observed: "If you then take abundance into account and then analyse the data again, then maximum size is very important as well. Trees that are able to reach a large size contribute more to the carbon cycle." As trees grow larger, they develop more biomass, which contains carbon. So the larger the tree, the greater quantity of carbon locked within its wood. As trees are long-lived organisms, this means the carbon is removed from the atmosphere for decades, if not centuries.

Find out more



Fairytale frog: London Zoo breeds bizarre amphibian for the first time thanks to geography PhD student,Thomas Doherty-Bone

Article courtesy of The Guardian

In a world first, the Zoological Society of London hatches and rears Lake Oku clawed frogs as an insurance population against extinction.

It could be the opening of a children’s story: in a great forest on a mountaintop lies a tiny lake, and in that tiny lake lives a tiny frog. But this isn’t just any frog. No, this frog is different. Very, very different. It has big webbed feet, no tongue at all, and (here’s where we leave typical children’s book territory) a whole bunch of chromosomes. The vast majority of the world’s animals, including humans, have two sets of chromosomes. But the Lake Oku clawed frog has twelve sets, which is a high number even for chromosome abundant organisms like plants.

The Lake Oku clawed frog is “[one] of the most genetically unusual creatures in the world,” said Carly Waterman, the Programme Manager for the Zoological Society of London’s (ZSL) EDGE group

The chromosome-happy frog is a member of an ancient lineage of amphibians known as pipids, which are only represented today by about 30 species that lack tongues and stick solely to water. Pipids first split off from other frogs 130 million years ago during the age of dinosaurs, but still some 60 million years before Tyrannosaurs Rex came on the scene. Scientists think the frog attained so many chromosomes through hybridising with similar species over millions of years.

Find out more



Credit: Kuo-Jung Chao
Credit: Kuo-Jung Chao

Amazon’s carbon uptake declines as trees die faster

The most extensive land-based study of the Amazon to date reveals it is losing its capacity to absorb carbon from the atmosphere.  From a peak of two billion tonnes of carbon dioxide each year in the 1990s, the net uptake by the forest has halved and is now for the first time being overtaken by fossil fuel emissions in Latin America.  

The results of this monumental 30-year survey of the South American rainforest, which involved an international team of almost 100 researchers and was led by the University of Leeds, are published in the journal Nature.

Over recent decades the remaining Amazon forest has acted as a vast ‘carbon sink’ – absorbing more carbon from the atmosphere than it releases – helping to put a brake on the rate of climate change. But this new analysis of forest dynamics shows a huge surge in the rate of trees dying across the Amazon.

Lead author Dr Roel Brienen, from the School of Geography at the University of Leeds, said: “Tree mortality rates have increased by more than a third since the mid-1980s, and this is affecting the Amazon’s capacity to store carbon.”

Initially, an increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere – a key ingredient for photosynthesis – led to a growth spurt for the Amazon’s trees, the researchers say. But the extra carbon appears to have had unexpected consequences.

Study co-author Professor Oliver Phillips, also from the University’s School of Geography, said: “With time, the growth stimulation feeds through the system, causing trees to live faster, and so die younger.”

Find out more


Nature / Alberto Seveso
Nature / Alberto Seveso

Epoch-defining study pinpoints when humans came to dominate planet Earth

The human-dominated geological epoch known as the Anthropocene probably began around the year 1610, according to new research published today in Nature.

Previous epochs began and ended due to factors including meteorite strikes, sustained volcanic eruptions and the shifting of the continents. The researchers behind the new study have concluded that humans have become a geological power and suggest that human actions have produced a new geological epoch.

Lead author Dr Simon Lewis, a geographer at the University of Leeds and UCL, said: “In a hundred thousand years, scientists will look at the environmental record and know something remarkable happened in the second half of the second millennium. They will be in no doubt that these global changes to Earth were caused by their own species.

“Today we can say when those changes began and why. The Anthropocene probably began when species jumped continents, starting when the Old World met the New. We humans are now a geological power in our own right – as Earth-changing as a meteorite strike.”

The paper ‘Defining the Anthropocene’ appears in the 12 March edition of Nature.

Find out more


Human trafficking and slavery in the UK

Louise Waite and Hannah Lewis were invited to speak at Parliament on Tuesday 10 March 2015. They addressed the All Party Parliamentary Group on Global Uncertainties on the topic of ‘Human Trafficking and Slavery in the UK’, chaired by John Glen MP. They spoke alongside Kevin Hyland; the UK’s first Independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner. The audience comprised MPs and Lords together with representatives from the National Crime Agency, the Home Office, and many NGOs and think-tanks including Anti-Slavery International, Refugee Council, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, CentreForum, Chatham House and the Centre for Social Justice.

Hannah & Louise profiled their ESRC funded research on the Experiences of forced labour among refugees and asylum seekers and a follow on project, also funded by ESRC, on Tackling forced labour among refugees and asylum seekers. Their presentation communicated their key message that amidst the burgeoning amount of research on forced labour and unfreedom in recent years, there is a missing focus on the particular experiences of asylum seekers and refugees living in the UK. Their research reveals for the first time that refugees and asylum seekers are a group of migrants vulnerable to exploitation in various forms of severely exploitative and, in some cases, forced labour in the UK. Hannah and Louise closed their presentation by outlining their key recommendations to tackle forced labour among refugees and asylum seekers:

  • End the enforced destitution of asylum seekers by restoring their right to work.
  • Ensure all workers irrespective of immigration status are protected from forced labour through universal access to basic employment rights.
  • Stop criminalising asylum seekers and undocumented migrants for working to meet basic survival needs by ending criminal prosecutions for new cases and wiping previous convictions from existing records.
  • Allow all refugees to exercise their rights to family reunion without the pressure to take up exploitative work by reinstating legal aid.

Find out more

Most carbon dense ecosystem in Amazonia mapped for first time

Amazonian forests are known to harbour large stores of carbon locked up in their trees. However, results from a new study show surprisingly that the parts of Amazonia with the highest concentration of carbon store most not as wood, but below the ground, as peat.

The study was undertaken by researchers from the Universities of Leeds, St Andrews, Edinburgh (UK), and Turku (Finland), in collaboration with the Research Institute of the Peruvian Amazon (IIAP) and is published today in the journal Environmental Research Letters. The authors mapped and quantified the carbon stored in the largest area of peatland forest in Amazonia within a geological basin almost the size of England (120,000 km2). The researchers estimated that over three billion tons of carbon are stored within this ecosystem, with 90 % stored below the ground as peat.

“Peatland forests are different from other Amazonian forests as they are typically dominated by small-statured trees or palms. We can see these differences not only on the ground but also from space using satellite imagery. These differences allowed us to map the extent of the peatlands and distinguish the different types of peatland forest. Crucially this approach allowed us to distinguish a type of forest dominated by small trees, or ‘pole’ forest – the most carbon-dense peatland type” explains lead author Freddie Draper, a PhD student at the University of Leeds. “Combining this satellite data with extensive field data we have been able to provide spatially explicit estimates of the amount of carbon stored in these ecosystems for the first time”.

Ordinarily in tropical forests, the vast majority of carbon is emitted back to the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, as trees die and decompose. However, waterlogging in peatlands means that decomposition is very slow so the carbon accumulates as peat.

Dr Tim Baker, co-author and Associate Professor at the School of Geography, University of Leeds presented the results to policymakers at ’Voices for Climate’ on the margins of the recent UN Climate Change Conference COP20 in Lima, Peru. “Mapping and quantifying the amount of carbon stored in these ecosystems is an important part of prioritising national strategies to mitigate climate change. For example, these peatlands occupy just 3 % of the forested area of Peru, but contain almost 50 % of the total amount of carbon stored above the ground in all Peruvian forests”.

“The peatlands we studied are largely intact, in contrast to tropical peatlands in Southeast Asia that have been exposed to decades of destruction, leading to huge carbon emissions and biodiversity losses” added co-author Dr Katherine Roucoux, lecturer at the University of St Andrews. “However, most of the peatland area, including the most carbon-dense peatland type, currently lies outside of the protected areas and threats are increasing. If these carbon-rich forests could be protected too, then large emissions of carbon to the atmosphere could be prevented.”

Funding for the project came primarily from the UK Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).

Climate change was not to blame for the collapse of the Bronze Age

Scientists have proven definitively that climate change could not have been responsible for a huge population collapse in Europe at the end of the Bronze Age.

Archaeologists and environmental scientists from the University of Leeds, the University of Bradford, University College Cork and Queen’s University Belfast have shown that the changes in climate that scientists believed to coincide with the fall in population in fact occurred at least two generations later.

Their results, published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, show that human activity starts to decline after 900 BC, and falls rapidly after 800 BC, indicating a population collapse. But the climate records show that colder, wetter conditions didn’t occur until around two generations later.

Dr Graeme Swindles, from the School of Geography, University of Leeds and a co-author of the study, said: “We found clear evidence for a rapid change in climate to much wetter conditions, which we were able to precisely pinpoint to 750 BC using statistical methods.”

Fluctuations in human activity levels through time are reflected by the numbers of radiocarbon dates for a given period. The team used new statistical techniques to analyse more than 2000 radiocarbon dates, taken from hundreds of archaeological sites in Ireland, to pinpoint the precise dates that Europe’s Bronze Age population collapse occurred.

Find out more

Study supervised by Jon Lovett shows the severe environmental impacts of armed conflicts on the Lebanon

Armed conflicts are responsible for severe environmental impacts due to both the direct effects of destruction and indirect effects resulting from the break down of law and social order. Northern Lebanon has experienced repeated conflicts over the last three decades, and in a recently published study resulting from a collaboration between Jon Lovett from the School of Geography, Leeds and the Universities of Balamand and Twente analyses change over time to demonstrate land degradation resulting from conflict. Mapping and monitoring land degradation are essential for designing and implementing post-conflict recovery plans and informed policy decisions.

The aim of the work was to evaluate the effect of repetitive armed conflicts on land degradation along the coastal zone of North Lebanon using multi-temporal satellite data. The specific objectives were to:

  • identify a list of indicators for use in conjunction with satellite remote sensi
  • monitor land cover change throughout repetitive events of armed conflicts and
  • model the effect of repetitive armed conflicts on land degradation.

The work involved the use of multi-temporal Landsat images and literature review data in Geographic Object-Based Image Analysis (GEOBIA) approach, together with 26 field visits to confirm interpretation of the images. The work resulted in the development of

  • a list of indicators to be employed,
  • land cover change detection maps with the use of multi-temporal Landsat images and, consequently, a fire risk associated with changes in vegetation cover throughout repetitive armed conflict events, and
  • an integrated approach for modelling the effect of repetitive armed conflicts on land degradation with the use of a composite land degradation index (CLDI).

The final synthetic map showed four classes of exposure to land degradation associated with repetitive armed conflicts. Data collected from field visits showed that the final classification results highly reflected (average of 90 %) the effect of repetitive armed conflicts on the different classes of exposure to land degradation.

Link to paper

find out more

Grouse moor burning causes widespread environmental changes

Evidence of the environmental effects of moorland burning is published today in the first authoritative scientific study on the subject, with the aim of relieving tensions on both sides of the grouse moor management debate.

The EMBER (Effects of Moorland Burning on the Ecohydrology of River basins) project has shown that heather burning on moorland, which is practised predominantly to support red grouse populations for gun sports, has significant negative impacts on peat hydrology, peat chemistry and physical properties, river water chemistry and river ecology.

A report on the five-year EMBER project is published online today – the first day of the moorland burning season, which will run until 15 April 2015.

Dr Lee Brown, from the School of Geography at the University of Leeds, who led the study, said: "Until now, there was little evidence of the environmental impacts of moorland burning. Yet, many moorland owners and individuals who hold sporting rights to the land have felt pressured by regulators and conservationists to change their burning regimes.

“Unsurprisingly, a push away from moorland burning – a practice that started in the UK about 100-150 years ago – without solid scientific evidence to back up the need for change has created a lot of tension. The findings from the EMBER project now provide the necessary evidence to inform policy.”

Find out more

Global importance of pollinators underestimated

Declines in populations of pollinators such as bees and wasps may be a key threat to nutrition in some of the most poorly fed parts of the globe, according to new research by Dr Guy Ziv.

A major study, published today in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B and co-authored by a University of Leeds academic, looked at the importance of pollinators to 115 of the most common food crops worldwide and the importance of those crops in delivering vital nutrients to vulnerable populations.

The research, the first to study the relationship between nutrition and pollination across the globe, found some regions where disruptions in pollination could have serious implications for human health.

Deficiencies in ‘micronutrients’—nutrients such as iron and vitamins that are required by the body in small quantities—are three times as prevalent where production of micronutrients is heavily dependent upon pollinators, such as Sub-Saharan Africa, India, and the Middle East.

In Southeast Asia and parts of Latin America, almost 50% of plant-derived vitamin A production relies on pollination.

Find out more

Super high-resolution survey in Greenland

Duncan Quincey, Jonathan Carrivick and Joe Mallalieu have been using an exciting new surveying technique to improve understanding of glacial flooding in Greenland.

Dr Duncan Quincey, Dr Jonathan Carrivick and Joseph Mallalieu (all School of Geography) used the emerging technique of ‘structure-from-motion with multi-view stereo’ (SfM-MVS) to analyse bedrock parts of a river channel at an unprecedented resolution.

“Worldwide, glacier margins are retreating, loss from glaciers is increasing and the consequent meltwater often forms temporarily ‘ponded’ in glacier lakes. Many of these lakes are unstable and can drain rapidly producing outburst floods,” explains Dr Carrivick. 

“Glacier outburst floods can cause loss of life, displacement of populations and damage to infrastructure, but our understanding of them is limited, due to their suddenness and short-lived nature and also the power of the flow which makes direct measurements extremely difficult. Flows are not easy to understand because they cause rapid landscape change, causing erosion and routing through complex channels. They frequently accelerate and decelerate, with rapid and abrupt changes in energy and capability to erode, transport and deposit sediment. So, new methods of surveying are needed to identify sources of sediment from outburst floods and the changes that take place between events.”

SfM uses novel digital photogrammetric and computer vision methods for simultaneously reconstructing camera pose and 3D feature geometry using multiple, overlapping digital photographs. It produces super high-resolution topographic models to improve flood modelling and also provides baseline data to compare future surveys against, allowing quantification of bedrock erosion and sediment redistribution.

 “This project collected the imagery using a combined ground-based and airborne approach,” explains Dr Carrivick. “Surveyors walked on the river banks, getting hand-held camera images at each new perspective, producing around 300 images for each site. Additionally, a quadcopter took multiple aerial photographs of the bedrock gorges, and was invaluable for speed of survey and for imaging inaccessible and exceptionally complex areas. The resulting topographic datasets have centimetre-decimetre resolution, which far surpasses any previous elevation models of the site.”

The team is now analysing the multi-scale data with a view to improving models of flood routing and propagation – for hazard analysis via information on time to inundation and hydraulics – and improving understanding of rapid bedrock erosion.The research was funded by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, administered by the Royal Geographical Society.

Low Impact Living - A Field Guide to Ecological, Affordable Community Building

This book is the inspirational story of one project that shows you how you can become involved in building and running your neighbourhood. The author, Paul Chatterton, co-founder of Lilac (Low Impact Living Affordable Community), along with other members of the community and the project team, explains how a group of people got together to build one of the most pioneering ecological, affordable cohousing neighbourhoods in the world. The book is a story of perseverance, vision and passion, demonstrating how ordinary people can build their own affordable, ecological community.

Find out more

Microscopic ‘Saturn of the Moors’ discovered

A species of alga that resembles the planet Saturn has been discovered for the first time in the British Isles.

The algal species, which is classified as 'Saturnella saturnus', was discovered by PhD student Jeannie Beadle from the School of Geography at the University of Leeds. Her research looks at pools of water created by peatland restoration measures in the Pennines, such as drain-blocking, with this particular find coming from Moor House-Upper Teesdale Nature Reserve in March 2014.

“I’m really pleased to have shown that drain-blocking is genuinely helping biodiversity. It’s evidence like this which helps land managers to justify the money spent on peatland restoration measures,” said Beadle.

After World War II, many peatlands in the UK were drained using shallow ditches with the aim of drying out the peat to make it more suitable for forestry and land grazing animals. However, the process has since been shown to be largely ineffective and also damaging to peatland ecosystems.

The blocking of drainage ditches began in the 1980s in an attempt to restore the peatlands to their former boggy state, with most of the pools being created in the last decade or so, when restoration programmes became more widespread.

Beadle concludes: “As well as looking at algae, I’ve sampled about 150 artificial pools for macroinvertebrates, which I’m currently sorting and identifying, so there may be further interesting discoveries later this year. However, I doubt any will be as beautiful as this Saturn of the Moors.”

Beadle’s research is funded by a Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) CASE partnership with the RSPB.

Further information
Jeannie Beadle is available for interview. Please contact Sarah Reed, Press Officer, University of Leeds, on 0113 34 34196 or email s.j.reed(at)

'It doesn’t make sense to be the soccer country if there is no health or education.' Photo: F. Venturini

Why is the country of football screaming “FIFA Go Home”?

Researchers from the School of Geography and the Institute for Transport Studies are currently in Rio de Janeiro looking at why and how thousands of Brazilians, after one year in the streets, are still mobilising against the biggest sports event of the year.

Despite being considered a country with huge growth and development potential, Brazil is still a territory of dramatic inequalities and injustices.

Since June 2013 a huge popular movement has swept through the country: It started from small protests against the increase in bus fares and quickly reached a peak of millions in the streets who oppose the current capitalist model of development that has climaxed in the hosting of mega events for most cities in Brazil. The country is now hosting the FIFA World Cup and Rio de Janeiro will host the Olympic Games in 2016.

While huge new infrastructures are being built to accommodate athletes and tourists, thousands of families are facing evictions due to these mega events, and billions of public money is poured into luxury stadiums and hotels. All this happens in a country that still lacks standard health and education facilities and in which millions of people live in precarious conditions in slums, while natural resources are heavily exploited.

Federico Venturini and Ersilia Verlinghieri, both doctoral students from the Faculty of Environment, are collecting testimonies for a documentary, working together with the Grupo Popular Pesquisa em Ação, a people's research collective from Rio de Janeiro.

This documentary will focus on the area close to the famous Maracanã stadium. This area where thousands of football fans are having a good time, is also a space of struggles and clearly represents the high price paid by the poorest to host these events. Here, hundreds of families are facing eviction to build a car-park, an Indigenous University is being replaced by a shopping mall and thousands of young people who are protesting weekly against the World Cup are being violently repressed by the police.

Maracanã, originally an indigenous name of a parrot which inhabited the region, has become the icon of the uneven development that Brazil is experiencing and of the struggles that are crossing it.

This research is part of a wider initiative on Contested Cities, a network of researchers in the UK, Spain, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico and Chile looking at changes in our cities.

Faculty members amongst world’s most highly cited scientists

Oliver Phillips, Professor in the School of Geography, Dr Simon Lewis, Reader in Global Change Science, and Ken Carslaw, Professor of Atmospheric Science and Director of the Institute for Climate and Atmospheric Science, and have been named 2014 Thomson Reuters Highly Cited Researchers.

They have earned the distinction by being amongst those scientists writing the greatest numbers of reports officially designated as Highly Cited Papers – those ranking among the top 1% most cited for their subject field and year.  Within their category, these individuals represent less than one-half of one percent of all publishing researchers, making them some of the world’s leading experts in their field.

Oliver’s work on tropical forests meanwhile gives him a listing in the Environment/Ecology category with just twelve other UK researchers, as well as those from Europe, the USA, South Africa and Australia. 

Simon, also listed in the Environment/Ecology category, is a plant ecologist whose work centres on tropics and global environmental change and how humans are changing the Earth as a system.  Simon holds the position of Reader at both the University of Leeds and at University College London.

Ken is one of only ten Highly Cited Researchers in the Geosciences in the UK, alongside scientists from Europe, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, China and the USA.

As members of the Highly Cited Researcher list, Oliver, Simon and Ken are included in the Thomson Reuters 2014 list of The World's Most Influential Scientific Minds. Their inclusion on the list demonstrates the exceptional impact they are having in their chosen research areas.

You can read more about Oliver’s work here and about Simon’s work here.

Saving trees in tropics could cut emissions by a fifth, study shows

Reducing deforestation in the tropics would significantly cut the amount of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere – by as much as one-fifth – research shows.

In the first study of its kind, scientists have calculated the amount of carbon absorbed by the world’s tropical forests and the amounts of greenhouse gas emissions created by loss of trees, as a result of human activity.

Scientists from the Universities of Leeds and Edinburgh analysed data from multiple previous studies, including satellite studies, to determine the amount of carbon absorbed and emitted by the world’s tropical forests in South and Central America, equatorial Africa and Asia.

“Forest census data from an Amazon-wide network of forest plots, maintained by the Universities of Leeds and Oxford, played a critical part in the analysis” said Professor Emanuel Gloor, a co-author of the study from the School of Geography at the University of Leeds.

Find out more

Research on the Khumbu Glacier: Scientists study melting Himalayan glaciers

Exactly ten years after he first visited the region, Duncan Quincey returned to Mount Everest to study the Khumbu Glacier, one of the most iconic in the Himalayan region.

Duncan Quincey was installing temperature probes and a hydrological station to measure the effect surface debris has on ice-melt, along with Ann Rowan (British Geological Survey), and Tristram Irvine-Fynn and Morgan Gibson (both Aberystwyth University).

“What was most striking about the glacier was the amount of melt that has occurred just below Everest Base Camp since I was last there” Duncan explained. “We know that many of these glaciers experience maximum melt several kilometres from their termini because the surface debris is much thinner there – these can rapidly become low-points on the glacier surface and a focus for meltwater accumulation”.

In the case of the Khumbu Glacier, much of the ice is also stagnant, meaning there is little opportunity for meltwater to escape. The long-term concern, therefore, is that the glacier will develop a large lake on its surface, as has happened on several nearby glaciers. But in the short-term, the team is most interested in how long, and at what rate, the glacier will supply meltwater to downstream areas.

Previous research has suggested that with a warming climate, debris-covered glacier melt will initially increase, before decreasing as the resource depletes. Accurately predicting meltwater runoff is challenging, however, because as the glacier degrades it becomes much more adept at storing water in surface pits and subsurface cavities.

Two of the team will return to the glacier in November to retrieve their equipment, and then will start the long job of analysing the temperature and hydrological measurements collected during the critical monsoon period. These results will feed directly into glacier modelling work to predict future recession of the glacier ice, and ultimately forecast future river flows with greater accuracy than has previously been possible.

This expedition was supported by a Royal Society research grant.

Peat bog as big as England found in the Congo

Source: The Guardian, David Smith, Africa Correspondent

For peat's sake, a British scientist trekked for three weeks through perilous jungle swamps in one of the most far-flung corners of Africa. His reward? A peat bog the size of England.

But while some explorers might have found this anti-climactic, for Simon Lewis (School of Geography, University of Leeds) it was like striking gold. His discovery is being hailed by experts as a breakthrough in unlocking secrets of the Congo basin and climate change.

The monster swamp his expedition found in Congo-Brazzaville is thought to contain billions of tonnes of peat dating back 10,000 years. Studies of this carbon-rich material could reveal how the environment has changed over millennia in central Africa – information that has remained largely shrouded in mystery due to political instability and the geographical remoteness.

Find out more

Tackling labour exploitation among refugees and asylum seekers

Hannah Lewis, Lou Waite and Stu Hodkinson recently held three workshops in Leeds, Manchester and London as part of their ESRC Knowledge Exchange grant entitled ‘Tackling labour exploitation among refugees and asylum seekers’.

The workshops were aimed at any organisation, campaign group or individual working with refugees and asylum seekers at risk of labour exploitation. They were also designed to launch the Guide, posters and postcards that we have been producing throughout the project – these can be seen here

The response to the workshops was overwhelming, and we had over 120 people attending from a range of migrant and refugee organisations, statutory providers, unions and employment rights networks, and anti-trafficking organisations. The third workshop in London ended with our final Platform meeting to discuss the future for tackling labour exploitation among asylum seekers and refugees in the UK, as we hope this project will have an ‘impact life’ far beyond the end of grant date!

For more information about how you can get involved visit our platform

Super-charged tropical trees: Borneo’s productive trees vitally important for global carbon cycling

A team of scientists including Professor Oliver Phillips, has found that the woody growth of forests in north Borneo is half as great again as the most productive forests of north-west Amazonia.

Whilst regional variation in wood production rates has been suspected, this research is the first to use identical methods in Amazonia and Borneo to measure properties of both the forests and their soils, making robust comparisons among different continents possible for the first time.

The study was led by the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology and the University of Leeds, and examines differences in above-ground wood production (one component of the total uptake of carbon by plants) which is critically important in the global cycling of carbon.

They found that trees are taller for a given diameter in Southeast Asia compared with South America, meaning they gain more biomass per unit of diameter growth, and this in part explains the differences observed.

Find out more

Amazon rainforest survey could improve carbon offset schemes

Carbon offsetting initiatives could be improved with new insights into the make-up of tropical forests.

Researchers from the Universities of Leeds and Edinburgh studying the Amazon Basin have revealed unprecedented detail of the size, age and species of trees across the region by comparing satellite maps with hundreds of field plots.

The findings will enable researchers to assess more accurately the amount of carbon each tree can store. This is a key factor in carbon offset schemes, in which trees are given a cash value according to their carbon content, and credits can be traded in exchange for preserving trees.

Existing satellite maps of the area have estimated trees’ carbon content based largely on their height, but have not accounted for large regional variations in their shape and density.

Researchers say their findings could help quantify the amount of carbon available to trade in areas of forest. This could help administer carbon offsetting more accurately, and improve understanding of how much carbon is stored in the world’s forests, which informs climate change forecasts.

Find out more

Photo: Fernando Espírito-Santo (NASA-JPL)
Photo: Fernando Espírito-Santo (NASA-JPL)

Amazon inhales more carbon than it emits

A new study led by NASA and Professor Manuel Gloor of the School of Geography, University of Leeds has confirmed that natural forests in the Amazon remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than they emit. This finding resolves a long-standing debate about a key component of the overall carbon balance of the Amazon basin.

“The study is the first to characterize forest disturbances across all spatial scales from a few square metres to hundreds of hectares across the entire Amazon,” according to co-author Professor Emanuel Gloor of the University of Leeds, who jointly led the study.

The Amazon's carbon balance is a matter of life and death: living trees take carbon dioxide out of the air as they grow, and dead trees put the greenhouse gas back into the air as they decompose. The new study, published today in Nature Communications, is the first to measure tree deaths caused by natural processes throughout the Amazon forest, even in remote areas where no data have been collected at ground level.

Fernando Espírito-Santo of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California, and Emanuel Gloor created new techniques to analyse satellite, LIDAR data and a 20-year set of measurements collected by hundreds of scientists in the RAINFOR network, led by Professor Oliver Phillips at Leeds.

Find out more

University of Leeds to be a leader in data analytics and research

Two multi-million pound grants will make the University of Leeds a major centre for ‘Big Data’ analysis – and a national resource that can be used by academics.

The grants, announced today by Minister for Universities and Science David Willetts at the High Performance Computing and Big Data conference in London, were awarded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Medical Research Council (MRC).

Sir Alan Langlands, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leeds, said: “These awards provide a real opportunity for Leeds to establish a leading centre in data analytics which will have clear patient benefits, high social and economic impact and real international reach. The investments from the MRC and ESRC provide an excellent platform for the future.”

 The funding is part of the Government’s support for research that can drive economic growth. Big Data analysis has been identified by ministers as one of “eight great technologies” in which the UK is internationally competitive.

David Willetts said: “Making the most of large and complex data is a huge priority for Government as it has the potential to drive research and development, increase productivity and innovation and ultimately transform lives.” 

The University of Leeds has been awarded £5.8 million from the MRC and, although the final details are still being negotiated, a further grant of approximately £5 million from the ESRC.

The ESRC grant will be used to establish a new Master’s course in Geography and Business, which will help address national skill shortages in Big Data analysis, and will fund a Consumer Data Research Centre (CDRC) that is jointly hosted by the University of Leeds and University College London.

Find out more 

Dry times in the Amazon add carbon dioxide to the atmosphere

As the climate changes, the Amazon Basin may release more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than it absorbs, according to a new study published in the journal Nature.

An international team of scientists, co-led by Professor Emanuel Gloor from the University of Leeds, found that during a dry year the Amazon Basin’s ecosystems ‘exhaled’ more carbon dioxide (through vegetation fires) than it ‘inhaled’ (through photosynthesis). During a wet year, the region was carbon neutral, with roughly equal amounts of carbon dioxide exhaled to the atmosphere and inhaled into ecosystems. “We know that the Amazon undergoes a warming trend similar to the rest of the globe. There is also an increase in both droughts and severe floods. It is unclear how the Amazon forests will change in the future,” said Professor Gloor, one of three lead authors on the new paper. “For the first time we have observed the Basin-wide carbon balance during a very dry and a wet year, which gives us an indication of what changes to expect.”

Until now, scientists have found it difficult to measure the carbon balance of Amazonia at the appropriate scale. Global observations of carbon dioxide concentration are unable to focus on tropical continental regions, and field studies in the Amazon rainforest struggle to scale up to the entire forest biome.

Find out more

Improving Flood Risk Management in China’s coastal megacities

China’s coastal cities have developed rapidly following the adoption of an “open door policy” and have attracted large investment and millions of workers, and are now economic powerhouses in East Asia. However, partly as a consequence of their growth, flood risk in these cities, already high, is rising. Sea level rise and regional changes in climate are exacerbating the risk, with typhoons, sea surges and storms expected to occur more often.  PhD student Faith Chan, supervised by Dr Gordon Mitchell and Professor Adrian McDonald, has been investigating flood risk management for these megacities, each home to over 8 million people, and has concluded that better long term, sustainable flood risk management strategies are urgently needed.

The cities’ people and economic assets are exposed to flood risk from the sea, rising rivers and intense urban rainfall.  To investigate how well these flood risks are currently assessed and managed, the research developed a sustainable flood risk appraisal (SFRA) framework, to facilitate benchmarking of flood practice and policy. The work focussed on the Pearl River Delta, particularly its cities of Shenzhen and Hong Kong, with analysis drawing on interviews with a wide range of stakeholders in the region, and on policy and practice reports.

Find out more

Dr Graeme Swindles is contributing towards our understanding of climate change in the Arctic

Graeme Swindles recently gave an invited paper at the Geoscience Forum, Yellowknife, Northwest Territories (NWT), Canada entitled Past and Future climate change in the North West Territories. This paper and research is part of a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC)-funded project focussing on climate change in the region of the Tibbett to Contwoyto winter ice road (of the ‘Ice Road Truckers’ TV show fame!).

The Tibbitt to Contwoyto Winter Road is a 568-km-long annual ice road first constructed in 1982 to service exploration activities in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. It is the world's longest heavy haul ice road and critical to the economy of the region and Canada with more than $500 million per year in goods passing over it. 

Find out more

Astronomers and global change scientists collaborate to measure Planet Earth

For the first time, astronomers and global change researchers are collaborating to measure changes at a global scale on our own planet, beginning with tropical forests.

"The ASTROTROP project will help global change scientists to start observing changes on planet Earth with the same rigour as astronomers observe stars," said Dr Alan Grainger from the School of Geography at the University of Leeds, who co-leads the project.

In the project, a network of UK tropical forest researchers, coordinated by the University of Leeds, will collaborate with a network of European astronomers, coordinated by the Royal Observatory Edinburgh. ASTROTROP will be launched in Edinburgh on 30-31 October at the Measuring the Planet 2013 conference.

Find out more 

City Stories: Linking research and teaching by making visual teaching aids

I have for a long time been a strong proponent of visual methodologies in my research. The dearth of visual teaching aids led me to think of ways to link my research and teaching much more explicitly through visual methodologies. In 2010, I went on an ESRC-ICSSR scholar exchange visit to Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) in Mumbai, where I became interested in the theme of urbanization in this region. In December, I will be taking University of Leeds undergraduate students in human geography for a visit to Mumbai. It seemed appropriate to link these aspects of research and teaching by the making of visual teaching aids. Fortunately I was funded by the UK-India Education Research Initiative and British Council to make low budget, low technology visual teaching aids on this theme.

I began with the notion that these mini-documentaries would tell the story of urban development in Maharashtra – a regional state in India which has Mumbai as its capital to boast and in recent years has seen rapid urbanization unsurpassed in India’s history. My collaborator in TISS,  Prof. Abdul Shaban had prepared a number of reports for the Indian Minority Commission on Muslims in India. During our brainstorming sessions, he highlighted two sites – Byculla and Malegaon. Byculla is an inner city neighbourhood in South Mumbai, close to the business district hence facing rapid urban renewal, yet divided along various lines of religious, caste and community; and Malegaon a medium-sized single economy town approximately 300 km from Mumbai, relying on the powerloom sector but left behind by urban development. City stories tells the fate of those minority neighbourhoods and towns marked by the stigma of communalism and parochialism, which thwarts investment and development from the public and private sector.

Find out more

Leeds is spearheading the drive to recruit the next generation of environmental scientists

The University, in partnership with the University of York, has led a successful bid from the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) for a Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP) to train environmental science PhD students.
The Doctoral Training Partnerships aim to equip the next generation of environmental scientists with the skills necessary to understand the complex interactions within the Earth system. This enables them to contribute to the development of scientific and policy solutions to the problems we will face in the coming decades, on both national and global scales. 

Leeds’ DTP consists of all five Leeds departments who are active in NERC science: the School of Earth and Environment; School of Geography; School of Chemistry; School of Biology and the School of Mathematics. The Department of Chemistry at the University of York is also covered by the bid.

Find out more

Click map to enlarge

Europe's wilder side is revealed thanks to detailed mapping

The first comprehensive survey of Europe’s remaining wilderness areas has been unveiled as part of a major project involving academics at the University of Leeds.

The resulting map and Wilderness Register for Europe, which sets out the quality of each area as well as existing levels of protection afforded to them, will shape European Union policy on these ecologically important sites for years to come.

Dr Steve Carver, Director of the Wildland Research Institute (WRi) at the University of Leeds, said:

“This is the first comprehensive survey and mapping of the remaining wilderness areas in Europe. It will drive developing EU policy on wilderness and influence our thinking on areas as diverse as ecosystem services, human health and wellbeing, climate change, biodiversity, protected areas and the concept of re-wilding – the return of habitats to their natural state.”

He said the very concept of wilderness had prompted debate over the years.

Find out more

Improving scientific advice to the United Nations

Dr Alan Grainger is a member of a group which has produced an innovative proposal for channelling scientific knowledge to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification.

The Eleventh Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) begins on 16 September in Windhoek, Namibia. One of the items on the agenda of its Committee on Science and Technology (CST) will be the report of an Ad Hoc Working Group on Scientific Advice (AGSA). Dr Alan Grainger is one of the twelve members of this group.

Ever since it came into force in 1996 the UNCCD has found it difficult to access the scientific knowledge and advice which it needs to operate effectively. Last year it established the AGSA and asked it to suggest how to solve this problem.

The AGSA, which began work in July 2012, has presented two documents to the CST. Its final report contains its full analysis, while the other document summarizes its recommendations. As the elected Rapporteur, Alan Grainger has played a key role in preparing these. In 2009 he published an analysis of the difficulties which the UNCCD has experienced (see the journal Land Degradation and Development, Volume 20, pages 410 to 430).

The AGSA is proposing that the new arrangement for accessing scientific advice could be a modular mechanism comprising three modules: a Science-Policy Interface (SPI), where policy makers and scientists would meet together; an Independent Non-Governmental Group of Scientists, which would produce peer-reviewed reports and discuss them with policy makers at the SPI; and Regional Science and Technology Hubs, which would bring together existing scientific networks in the different regions of the world to collate and synthesize regional scientific knowledge on land degradation.

The modular mechanism is innovative in various ways. For example, unlike the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the Independent Non-Governmental Group of Scientists (IGS) will be governed by its member scientists. In addition,  the Regional Science and Technology Hubs will not only complement the global work of the IGS, by synthesizing scientific knowledge on land degradation in the main regions of the world, but will also catalyse future research in these regions.

Details of the proposal can be found on the UNCCD website here.

Nepal Energy Garden

Professor Jon Lovett, Chair in Global Challenges, has been awarded a grant by the ESRC-DFID Development Frontiers Research Fund 2012/13 to investigate the socio-economics of biomass energy production at the level of households, small-scale farms and the communities where they are situated.

The ESRC-DFID ‘Development Frontiers’ Research Fund is a new fund for supporting pioneering theoretical and methodological innovation, and creating links across disciplines that do not usually work together to form non-traditional partnerships. The expectation is that this research will provide a major stimulus to novel streams of enquiry or practice with the results being made available to policy makers and development practitioners worldwide.

The project, titled Energy Gardens for small-scale farmers in Nepal: institutions, species and technology, aims to find a solution to the controversies surrounding use of biomass and biofuels for energy production by utilising indigenous plant species within the setting of small-scale poor farmers and communities in Nepal. The research team includes sociologists, economists, botanists and engineers from the UK, Nepal and India.

Using Energy Gardens, poor farming communities, perhaps living in remote areas, can grow their own fuel. Traditionally this has been wood fuel, but new technologies and innovative approaches are opening the possibility to grow and process a wide range of biofuels, including biodiesel for powering irrigation pumps.

Dissemination of the outputs is a critical component of the project activities. The project team will be working with the international network of botanical gardens that form Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) which will make the project findings available as display materials to its 700 member botanic gardens in 118 countries.

Professor Lovett said ‘Energy is a major component of development and many communities in developing countries experience energy poverty. By harnessing the power of plants through technological innovation we hope to transform the lives of small scale farmers.’

The project is due to start in October 2013 and will be completed 18 months later. Partners in the project are:

Project page:

Ecologists uncover 'hyperdominant' tree species in the Amazon

Professor Oliver Phillips has joined researchers from around the world to generate the first basin-wide estimates of the abundance and distribution of trees in the Amazon rainforest.

The research, which was published in Science, suggests that half of the estimated 390 billion trees in Greater Amazonia, which spans nine countries, belong to only a tiny fraction of the different species found there. The findings could aid conservation efforts and climate change research in the future.

Professor Oliver Phillips, Royal Society Wolfson Researcher in the School of Geography at the University of Leeds and study co-author, said:

“For the first time, plant ecologists have managed to work out which species dominate Greater Amazonia. This has required a huge collaborative effort, with more than 100 researchers working in each one of the nine nations of Amazonia.”

Find out more

Deforestation in Africa's Congo Basin rainforest slows

credit: Rebecca Morelle, Science reporter, BBC World Service

Tree loss in one of the world's largest rainforests has slowed, a study suggests. Satellite images of Africa's Congo Basin reveal that deforestation has fallen by about a third since 2000.Researchers believe this is partly because of a focus on mining and oil rather than commercial agriculture, where swathes of forest are cleared.

The work is published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B. It is part of a series that is examining the state of Africa's forests.

Dr Simon Lewis, from the University of Leeds and University College London, said: "Most of the focus has been on the Amazon and on South East Asian tropical rainforests, and a big bit of the missing picture is what is going on the Congo Basin in Central Africa.

Dr Simon Lewis told the Today programme's Evan Davis that "we have seen about a 30% reduction in the amount of area of forests lost over the 2000s compared to the 1990s". He said that although this was good news and a "big surprise," it did not mean that deforestation was not taking place on a large scale.

First broadcast on BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Monday 22 July 2013.

Find out more


Knowledge exchange platform on forced labour and asylum launched

Funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) researchers from the School of Geography have launched a Knowledge Exchange Platform on Forced Labour and Asylum. 

Dr Louise Waite, Dr Stuart Hodkinson and Dr Hannah Lewis are building the Platform on the research outcomes of their ESRC-funded project Precarious Lives: Asylum Seekers and Refugees’ Experiences of Forced Labour, which produced the first conclusive evidence of forced labour among migrants in the UK asylum system. 

The aim of the project is to turn academic research findings on refugees, asylum seekers and refused asylum seekers’ experiences of forced labour in England into social change, with the help of practitioners.

The Knowledge Exchange Platform will therefore build strategies for tackling the existence of forced labour among refugees and asylum seekers, and ensure that the research is disseminated in ways that maximise its chances of having a positive impact on policy and practice.

In addition to the funding received by the ESRC, the project is part-funded by nine NGO and Third Sector partners - Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Employability Forum, Anti-Slavery International, Refugee Council, Refugee Action, Migration Yorkshire, TUC, Henry Hyams Solicitors, Thompsons Solicitors.

The objectives of the Knowledge Exchange Platform are:

1. To generate accessible and tailored research findings about forced labour among asylum seekers and refugees and disseminate them to key target audiences to maximise understanding and impact.

2. To create productive spaces for dialogue, agenda-setting, action and long-term relationships between academics, policy makers, practitioners and refugees and asylum seekers themselves.

3. To translate relevant findings into existing refugee advice guidance and a variety of training and guidance materials for voluntary sector agencies to help their clients avoid or challenge exploitation.

4. To lay the foundations of a longer-term action and research Platform that brings together groups, organisations, and expertise on forced labour and immigration in order to influence and generate change.

The Knowledge Exchange Platform was formally launched on 3 July with a meeting of all participating partners.  A programme of Platform events with partners and other stakeholders will now run until January 2014.

For further information about the Knowledge Exchange Platform please contact Hannah Lewis.

Precarious Lives: refugees and asylum seekers’ experiences of forced labour

The first evidence of widespread ‘modern slavery’ in England for refugees and asylum seekers was revealed in a study published on 2 July.

The two-year study calls for an overhaul of government policy to restore asylum seekers’ right to work and ensure all workers can access basic employment rights, such as National Minimum Wage, irrespective of immigration status.

Stuart Hodkinson from the University of Leeds, who co-authored the study, said: “We found that in the majority of cases, if the asylum seeker had been able to work legally then the employer or agent would not have been able to exploit and abuse them to such an appalling extent.”

Researchers interviewed 30 refugees and asylum seekers who had been coerced – either by unscrupulous individuals or by the grim reality of facing destitution – into exploitative jobs in a wide range of fields, including catering, domestic work, retail and construction. They found that all of the interviewees had experiences indicative of forced labour, as outlawed by the Forced Labour Convention of the United Nation’s International Labour Organisation (ILO).

Find out more

David Galbraith investigates tropical forests' resilience to global warming

Tropical forests are less likely to lose biomass – plants and plant material - in response to greenhouse gas emissions over the twenty-first century than may previously have been thought, suggests a study published online this week in Nature Geoscience.

In the most comprehensive simulation study yet of the risk of tropical forest dieback due to climate change, the results have important implications for the future evolution of tropical rainforests including the role they play in the global climate system and carbon cycle.

The research team comprised climate scientists and tropical ecologists from the UK, USA, Australia and Brazil and was led by Dr Chris Huntingford from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology in the UK.

Dr. David Galbraith, Dr. Simon Lewis, Professor Emanuel Gloor and Professor Oliver Phillips from the School of Geography are co-authors on this paper, published in a high impact journal.

Ayona Datta explores The Illegal City: Space, law and gender in a Delhi squatter settlement in her new book.

A new book by Ayona Datta titled The Illegal City: Space, law and gender in a Delhi squatter settlement and published by Ashgate explores the relationship between, space, law and gendered subjectivity through a close look at an ‘illegal’ squatter settlement in Delhi. 

Published as part of the Gender, Space and Society series it investigates developments since 2000 in nine chapters with titles such as Violence of urban development, the construction of squatter camps, contested boundaries of infrastructure and visions of the future.

A detailed description of the book and reviews can be found on the publisher’s website here

A review by Times Higher Education can be read here

Investigating coastline dynamics in an increasingly stormy world

Major impacts of climate change include global sea-level rise and increased storminess which will impact on coastlines, coastal ecosystems and threaten coastal societies to be investigated by researchers from the School of Geography.

Researchers from the White Rose University Consortium have been awarded a White Rose University Consortium Collaboration Fund grant to collaborate on a project titled ‘Coastline dynamics in an increasingly stormy world’.

Paul Norman investigates the latest trends and debates in population studies

This new textbook provides a detailed and accessible overview which: situates demographic events, fertility, mortality and migration, within the context of broader social impacts and theorisations like social inequalities, individualisation and life course analysis; uses global illustrative examples to demonstrate the importance of data and data interpretation in population studies; and is illustrated throughout with pedagogic features, like chapter opening summaries, case study examples and suggestions for further reading.

A detailed description of the book can be found on the publisher’s website here

Dr Graeme Swindles has been awarded the Lewis Penny medal by the Quaternary Research Association (QRA)

The Quaternary Research Association has awarded the Lewis Penny medal to Dr Graeme Swindles in the School of Geography at the University of Leeds.  The award is made annually to a young or new research worker who has made a significant contribution to the study of strata from the Quaternary period – the last two million years – in the British isles and its maritime environment.

Dr Swindles received the medal at the annual meeting of the QRA at the University of Newcastle.

In 40 years’ time the UK will be a more diverse but more integrated society

Ethnic minorities will make up a fifth of the population but they will be less concentrated in the big cities, the report says. Professor Philip Rees, from the School of Geography, who has led the research, said: “At a regional level, the ethnic minorities will shift out of deprived inner city areas to the suburbs and surrounding towns.

“This echoes the way that white groups have migrated in the past with the growth of the middle classes. In particular the Black and Asian populations of affluent local authorities will increase significantly.”

Read further coverage in The Guardian, the Daily Mail and the Telegraph

Dr Clare Woulds research cruise to the Southern Ocean

Clare has now completed a six-week research cruise in the Southern Ocean to investigate hydrothermal vent systems.  Visit Clare's blog which she wrote while on board the RRS James Cook to find out more about her research and the science behind it, the equipment used in her work, life on board and to see some spectacular photographs of whales.  

Stuart Hodkinson puts UK government’s social housing policy under the spotlight

In an invited opinion piece for The Independent newspaper, Dr Stuart Hodkinson critically examines the coalition government’s approach to social housing.

Drawing on his own research on Localism and the social housing situation in Leeds, he draws a bleak picture of the impact of current policies.

Tree rings go with the flow of the Amazon

University of Leeds-led research has used tree rings from eight cedar trees in Bolivia to unlock a 100-year history of rainfall across the Amazon basin, that contains the world’s largest river system.

The new study shows that the rings in lowland tropical cedar trees provide a natural archive of data closely related to historic rainfall.

Nature highlights results on the importance of tree height in estimating biomass

Nature “Research Highlights” featured results from a new paper led by Ted Feldpausch and colleagues from the University of Leeds-based international projects RAINFOR, AfriTRON, TROBIT, and AMAZONICA, which was recently published in Biogeosciences. Their research shows that incorporating tree-height data into calculations of aboveground carbon stored in tropical forests reduces estimates by ~13%. 

To read the Nature article go to

Biodiversity protects rainforests

Biodiversity protects tropical rainforests from drought

Forest carbon stocks in protected West African rainforests increased despite a 40-year drought, due to a dramatic shift in tree species composition.

The new study by UK and Ghanaian scientists, led by Sophie Fauset , Tim Baker, Simon Lewis and Ted Feldpausch, shows that biodiversity can limit the negative impacts of drought on forest carbon storage. The researchers tracked over 10,000 trees in Ghanaian forests between 1990 and 2010, an extended period of water stress, showing that tree community composition shifted to favour species adapted to drier conditions.

NERC Isotope Geosciences Facilities award for Roel Brienen

NERC Isotope Geosciences Facilities award for Roel Brienen

The NERC Isotope Geosciences Facilities awarded isotope analysis time to Roel Brienen for the research project “Is the hydrological cycle of the Amazon changing? An isotopic tree ring study”. This study will help elucidate recent changes in the hydrological cycle of the Amazon basin using oxygen and carbon isotopes in tree rings.

Vulnerable Workers

Registration open for the Vulnerable Workers, Forced Labour, Migration and Ethical Trading conference

Vulnerable workers, forced labour, migration and ethical trading conference:

Gordon Mitchell takes gold at Chelsea!

Gordon Mitchell takes gold at Chelsea!

Dr Gordon Mitchell has been celebrating winning a gold medal at this year’s RHS Chelsea Flower Show. Gordon was responsible for the water management aspects of the exhibit which reflects his research interest.

David Bell joins PIP breast implant scandal debate at Westminster

David Bell joins PIP breast implant scandal debate at Westminster

ESRC Sun, Sea, Sand & Silicone project (Co-I David Bell, PI Ruth Holliday, CIGS): researchers from the project team attended Westminster to brief ministers in advance of a debate about the PIP breast implant scandal. Empirical findings and policy recommendations from the project will feed into the debate and hopefully influence subsequent actions to support the 50,000+ women in the UK affected. A Hansard transcript of the debate is available online here.