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Personal Chair in Global Change Ecology, School of Geosciences, University of Edinburgh

Professor Williams studies the interaction of terrestrial ecosystems with the climate system, disturbance and management. His goal is to understand the dynamics of the carbon cycle, plant growth, and to support sustainable management of the global landscape.

Professor Williams research is on understanding the terrestrial carbon cycle and its links to global change. The carbon cycle links the biological processes of living things to the physical environment and climate. Carbon, through its links to natural resources such as food and wood, is fundamental to our society and its sustainability. Mathew studies carbon cycling of plants and soils, and their interactions, across environmental and biodiversity gradients from the tropics to the arctic, to understand carbon sinks and sources across the globe. He explores feedback processes between soil, vegetation and the atmosphere, over timescales from days to years, to improve modelling of climate change. He uses process based modelling and data assimilation methods to extract information from detailed ecosystem measurements. Linking to earth observations, he uses models to upscale field measurements and ecological experiments, to investigate landscape processes and predict their sensitivity to disturbance and climate. He focusses particularly on issues relating to the drought sensitivity of forests, the role of disturbance (fire or anthropogenic) on forest biomass, the sensitivity of Arctic ecosystems to warming, and the yield of crops. Understanding and simulating the non-steady state behaviour of ecosystems is a current focal interest.

Research Interests

Vegetation-atmosphere gas exchange; interactions of carbon, nutrient and hydrological cycles; primary productivity and plant allocation; ecosystem models and scaling; climate controls on vegetation distribution; data

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