Personal profile



Tel: 0161 2751555

Self-funded PhDs:

I am interested in self-funded PhD students on projects related to plant-soil interactions including:

1.  Maximising ecosystem services in urban greenspaces

The PhD project will be aligned to a new UKRI-funded project, and will specifically focus on plant-soil interactions in urban settings. For example, it could explore relationships between biodiversity of soils from different urban contexts with ecosystem multifunctionality, whether the functioning of plant-mycorrhizal symbioses is moderated by environmental and edaphic conditions found in urban landscapes, and ways to maximise the resilience of urban green infrastructure to climate change factors, such as drought.  The experiments may use a mix of in situ measurements across towns and cities in the UK and manipulation experiments in the laboratory.  The findings will help develop enabling mechanisms to enhance the contribution made by local scale GI interventions to wider landscape scale processes and the resilience of urban ecosystems.


2. Tree expansion in extreme environments 

Woodland expansion is a key government policy. This project will gain more detailed understadning of how soil fungal networks may facilitate tree growth in extreme environments, where weather conditions and soil properties limit tree establishment and health, using Shetland as an exemplar.



Our new NERC-funded mobile laboratory (Gladiss the GasLab) is used to quantify fluxes of greenhouse and trace gases (N2O, CH4, CO2, NH3) in situ, and also enables quantification of the isotope ratios of some of these gases (15N2O, 13CO213CH4) in real time using automated chambers and the latest laser absorption spectrometers. Meteorological data are also collected. The 4x4 vehicle can operate remotely and is available for hire to the scientific community.



Active research projects

NERC Directed Highlight Topic (Dec 2021-Jan 2026). “Maximising Ecosystem Services in Urban Environments – MEaSURE”. PI: D Johnson. £2,489,791. To UoM: £1,648,404. NE/W003120/1.

NERC Standard Discovery (Feb 2022-Aug 2025). “Short-circuiting the terrestrial phosphorus cycle: symbiotic control of organic phosphorus mineralisation and uptake” PI: D Johnson. £799,997. NE/W000350/1

Knowledge Transfer Partnership “Development of Cell Assays for Assessing Non-ionic Surfactant Toxicity” PI: Prof Jian Lu, Manchester, CoI: D Johnson. With Syngenta Ltd, June 2021-Jan 2024. £235,089.

Royal Society FLAIR (Feb 2020-Feb 2023) “Manipulating plant and soil diversity to maximise resource capture and resilience in African agri-ecosystems” PI: D Johnson, CoI: E Njeru, Kenyatta University. £49560.

NERC Standard Discovery (Feb 2019-Feb 2022) “Disentangling mechanisms of co-adaptation between trees and soil food webs in response to environmental perturbations.” PI: D Johnson. £793k        NE/S002189/1 

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 2 - Zero Hunger
  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • SDG 12 - Responsible Consumption and Production
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action
  • SDG 15 - Life on Land

Education/Academic qualification

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

Award Date: 1 Apr 1998

Areas of expertise

  • QK Botany
  • Mycorrhiza
  • Ecology
  • Soil Science
  • Biodiversity
  • Biogeochemical cycling
  • Sustainable agriculture
  • Ecosystem processes
  • Plant science

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Sustainable Futures
  • Biotechnology
  • Manchester Environmental Research Institute
  • Healthier Futures


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Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

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