Prof David Johnson

N8 Chair in Soil Microbial Ecology

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Tel: 0161 2751555

My research focuses on understanding biological interactions in the terrestrial environment, particularly among plants, soils, mycorrhizal fungi and herbivores. Much of this research concerns the role of biological interactions in the context of carbon and mineral nutrient cycling, and therefore my group uses isotopic tracers to quantify nutrient fluxes. A key research focus is on the ecology of symbiotic mycorrhizal fungi that inhabit the roots of most plants and are ideal models for testing ecological theory, and crucial in regulating biogeochemical cycling and plant fitness. Our research is applied to tropical and temperate forests, peatlands, grasslands and agri-ecosystems.

Active research projects

1.    NERC-NSF Standard Discovery (April 2017-2020). “Mycorrhizal drivers of SOM formation and decomposition” PI: Jens Subke, Stirling. NSFDEB-NERC. £443k. NE/P011098/1 

2.    NERC Standard Discovery (Feb 2017-2020). “Social networking in soil: Biodiversity as a selective force for inter-plant signalling”. PI: D Johnson. £625k. NE/P001823/1

3.    NERC Standard Discovery (October 2016-April 2020). “Will more productive arctic ecosystems sequester less soil carbon? PI: Phil Wookey, Heriot Watt, CoI: D Johnson. £794k.

4.    NERC Capital Equipment “Isotope trace gas laboratory” £500k. PI: Y Teh

5.    NERC Capital Equipment “In situ mobile isotope trace gas laboratory” £590k. PI: D Johnson

6.    Scottish Government funded post-doc. “Soil system resilience to disturbance” £300k PI: D Johnson. April 2015-2018.

7.    “Native biodiversity in human-impacted habitats: Applying NGS technology to arthropod assemblages in semi-natural and plantation oak woodlands.” (Value: £70000) NERC Open CASE (2016-2020). PI: Lesley Lancaster. Partner: Nadia Barsoum, Forest Research NE/N008499/1.

8.    “What makes a specialist special? The physiology of ecological specialization in plant-fungal mutualisms”. May 2015-2018. NERC Standard. £630k. PI: D Johnson. NE/M015653/1.

9.    “Controls on the stability of soils and their functioning under land use and climate change” April 2015-2018. NERC/BBSRC Soil Security. £1.629M. PI: R Bardgett; PI: Aberdeen component: D Johnson. CoI: Mark Emmerson, Liz Baggs, Franciska De Vries, Tancredi Caruso. NE/M017028/1.

10.  “Explaining niche separation in tropical forests: feedbacks between root-fungal symbioses and soil phosphorus partitioning”. April 2015-2018. NERC Standard. £1.12M (£662754 to Aberdeen); PI: D Burslem, Co-I: D. Johnson, A Taylor, A Douglas and T Helgason (York). NE/M004848/1.

11.  “A rhizotrait framework for the northern and southern hemispheres” BBSRC International Partnering Award (2014-2018).Value: £30561. PI: EM Baggs, CoI: D Johnson.  BB/L026759/1.

12.  Biodiversity and land-use impacts on tropical ecosystem function (BALI)”. NERC Human Modified Tropical Forests programme. ~£4.4M consortium led by Dr Yit Arn-Teh; PI for Aberdeen component (£888,892): D Johnson. NE/K016253/1.

Areas of expertise

  • QK Botany - Mycorrhiza, Ecology, Soil Science, Biodiversity, Biogeochemical cycling

Education / academic qualifications

  • 1998 - Doctor of Philosophy, Changes in soil microbial biomass & activities and plant nutrition in response to simulated pollutant nitrogen deposition, The University of Sheffield

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