Richard Bardgett is British ecologist and Professor of Ecology at The University of Manchester. He graduated from the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1987 with a degree in Soil and Land Resource Science, and then moved to Lancaster University, where he gained his PhD in 1991. He then held posts at the Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research and the Universities of Manchester and Lancaster, where he established the Soil and Ecosystem Ecology Group, and he recently returned to The University of Manchester where he is now Professor of Ecology. Over the last twenty years, Richard's research has led to mechanistic and conceptual advances in the area of plant-soil interactions, with a particular focus on understanding impacts of plants on soil microbial communities and feedback consequences for plant growth and ecosystem processes, especially carbon and nitrogen cycling. His research takes him to many parts of the world, but most of his current work is focussed on grasslands. Richard has published over 250 scientific papers, inlcuding many highly cited works, and is recognised by Thomas Reuters as as Highly Cited Researcher in ecology and environment sciences.  He has also authored and co-authored several books, including the award winning Biology of Soil (2005), Aboveground-Belowground Interactions (2010), and his recent book Earth Matters: How Soil Underpins Civilization (2016), all published by Oxford University Press. He is an Editor of Journal of Ecology and a long-standing member of the Editorial Boards of Ecology Letters and Ecosystems. He is a Visiting Professor at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland, Chair of BBSRC's Committee E, and member of the Board of Directors of Rothamsted, BBSRC's Research Advisory Panel, and the Netherlands Institute of Ecology Scientific Advisory Board. He was Vice President of the British Ecological Society (2011-2014), and was elected an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand in 2006, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology in 2011, and a member of Academia Europaea in 2015.

External roles

2017-2019     Member Royal Society International Exchanges Committee 

2014-2016     Member Royal Society Biological Sciences Grants Panel

2014-present  Member Centre for Ecology and Hydrology Science Development Group 

2011-2014      Vice President British Ecological Society 

2013-present  Chair BBSRC Research Committee E

2013-present  Member BBSRC Research Advisory Panel 

2012-2013      NERC Soil Security Programme Lead 

2010-present  Member BBSRC Strategic Lola Committee and Appointments Board 

2009-present  Director, Rothamsted Board of Directors

2007-present  Scientific Advisory Committee Netherlands Insititute for Ecology (NIOO) 

2006-present  Editor Journal of Ecology

2006-present  Editorial Board Ecology Letters and Ecosystems 


1987-1991 PhD Soil Ecology, Lancaster University/CEH Merlewood

1984-1987 BSc (Hons) Soil and Land Resource Science, Newcastle University


My research is broadly concerned with understanding the role of interactions between plant and soil communities in regulating the structure and function of terrestrial ecosystems, and their response to global change. A particular goal of my research is to develop a mechanistic and conceptual understanding of how: (1) plant species and their traits influence soil biodiversity and ecosystem processes, such as carbon and nutrient cycling; (2) soil biodiversity influences nutrient cycling and plant community dynamics across different temporal and spatial scales; and (3) these interactions are affected by, and can potentially mitigate, climate change. A major focus of my current research is applying these concepts to the development of sustainable management options for agriculture, biodiversity and the delivery of ecosystem services, especially carbon sequestration and efficient nutrient cycling. The Soil and Ecosystem Ecology Group at Manchester is supported by funds from NERC, BBSRC, the EU, and Defra, and we welcome enquiries from those interested in joining the group.

Research interests

My research is broadly concerned with understanding the role of interactions between plant and soil communities in regulating the structure and function of terrestrial ecosystems, and their response to global change. A particular focus of my research is ecosystem nitrogen and carbon cycling and I work in a range of ecosystems, from tropical forests, to grasslands, and alpine and arctic tundra. Specific themes and examples of current research include:

Plant traits and ecosystem processes: A key goal of my research is to better understand of how plant traits impact on soil biological communities and the processes of carbon and nitrogen cycling that they drive. Much of this work is being done in grasslands, and includes studies done at the individual plant, field, and landscape scale. The ultimate aim of this research is to develop a trait-based framework for understanding how changes in plant functional diversity, for example resulting from land use change, influence soil microbial communities and the processes that underpin the ecosystem services of soil carbon storage and efficient nitrogen cycling. We are also using this knowledge to better manage grassland diversity for carbon storage.

Soil biodiversity and ecosystem function: Soil biological communities are extremely species rich and a key goal of my research, for several years, has been to better understand how changes in the diversity and composition of soil communities influence ecosystem processes. A key theme of this research is to advance understanding of how trophic interactions in soil control nutrient supply to plants, and how changes in food web composition impact on carbon and nitrogen cycling. This research also extends to understanding factors that regulate soil biodiversity at different spatial and temporal scales, and to optimising land management to reap benefits from the living soil.

Plant-soil interactions and climate change: Climate change impacts on biogeochemical cycles via a variety of mechanisms involving interactions between plant and belowground communities. My research is aimed at understanding the mechanisms by which climate change impacts on plant-soil interactions and the carbon cycle at different spatial and temporal scales, ranging from short term impacts on the physiology and activity of aboveground and belowground biota, to longer term impacts caused by changes in community composition. An ultimate goal is to use this research to inform on land management options for climate mitigation through the sequestration of carbon in soil.

Herbivore impacts on terrestrial ecosystems: An ongoing interest of mine, since my PhD, is the study of how large grazing animals influence the structure and function of terrestrial ecosystems, with a focus on soil biological properties and nutrient cycling, and, more recently, carbon dynamics. Much of this work has been done in mountain grasslands that are grazed by sheep, but more recently we have been studying effects deer browsing in native forest ecosystems in the Scottish Highlands and reindeer in the high arctic.

Further reading: 

Bardgett, R.D. & Wardle, D.A. (2010) Aboveground-Belowground Linkages: Biotic Interactions, Ecosystem Processes, and Global Change. Oxford Series in Ecology and Evolution, Oxford University Press. 

Research profile

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