This theme encompasses many different facets of research across STEMM, the social sciences and humanities, including the sustainability of natural and modified ecosystems in the face of societal development and climate change, climate change science, adaptation and mitigation, mining and its corresponding global environmental challenges, sustainability and the circular economy.


  • Mining: Resourcing in a Changing World: Re-use and re-cycling are important elements of any Environmental Sustainability strategy, but raw materials will always be necessary to underpin new technological developments. Sustainable exploitation of raw materials presents a number of first-order societal challenges that can only be met by taking an international and cross disciplinary approach.
  • Calibration of future environments from geological records: the extent to which Earth's climatic and environmental systems can be perturbed is principally known from its stratigraphic record. Indeed, mechanisms of environmental change, and their impact and magnitudes, can only be reconstructed and fully understood using these records. Suitable paleoclimate archives can range from deep-sea sediments through to shallow water biogenic materials, and on to terrestrial cave deposits, and construction of these records often necessitates large-scale international collaboration.
  • Decision-making tools for environmental sustainability: this sub-theme would look at the potential for developing decision support tools to assist policy makers and business decision makers understand the environmental and economic wellbeing consequences of alternative investments.
  • Optimal conservation: the siting of conservation zones is rarely determined by their biodiversity consequences alone. Other considerations including social impact, equity, economic costs and benefits, and legal factors play a role. This sub-theme develops approaches to improve management decision-making so that outcomes have greater ecological, economic and/or social value.
  • Conserving species in a changing world: the role of climate change in driving changes in the world’s biodiversity hotspots and approaches to help ecosystems and people adapt.
  • Integrated decision making for terrestrial, freshwater and coastal systems. Policy prescriptions in one location rarely manage to fully incorporate the effects that change will have on the integrated system that is the natural environment. This sub-theme addresses this deficiency through a case study approach which could look at a combination of the drivers of change, linkages between ecosystems and solutions.
  • Combating environmental change in marine and aquatic ecosystems: this research theme addresses emerging problems like plastic pollution and changing biogeochemistry and attempts to seek mechanistic understanding and solutions at appropriately large scales.
  • Extremes in a changing climate: understanding causes and impacts to build resilience. This includes changes in climate variability and their implications for ecosystem resilience, detection and early warning of damaging tipping points, and tipping positive transformative change to restore degraded ecosystems. Specific areas of study could include: (a) ENSO and climate change; (b) Heatwaves and droughts under climate change.
  • Tipping points: threats and opportunities: this sub-theme would span topics such as detecting damaging abrupt changes in environmental systems to tipping positive transformative change to restore degraded systems.
  • Soil and landscape degradation under population and climate change scenarios: understanding the structure, function, management and restoration of dryland soils is critical to deliver future-proof solutions across what will be 50% of the global land mass, home to 25% of the global population by 2100. This builds on UoE drylands research, which to date has a focus in Europe and the Americas, but can also be related to global concepts of environmental resilience.
  • Food security and crop science