Personal profile


Richard Bardgett CBE is a 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  completed his PhD in 1991 at Lancaster University. He moved to Manchester in 2013, having previously worked at the Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research and the Universities of Manchester and Lancaster. He served as President of the British Ecological Society from 2017-2019 and was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the King's 2023 New Years Honours for services to soil ecology and climate change science. 

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 and is mostly focussed on grasslands. Richard has published over 350 scientific papers, inlcuding many highly cited works in leading journals such as Nature and Science, and has been repeatedly recognised as a Highly Cited Researcher in the field of ecology and environment since 2009. 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.

Richard is Executive Editor of Journal of Ecology and a long-standing member of the Editorial Boards of Ecology Letters and Ecosystems. He was a Visiting Professor at the University of Innsbruck (2020) and Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (2011) and a Thinker in Residence for the Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium, producing a report on Soils as Natural Capital (2021). He also served as Chair of BBSRC funding commmittees (2008-2018) and on serveral advisory boards, including Defra's Science Advisory Council (2021-present), BBSRC's Research Advisory Panel (2013-2018), Rothamsted Board or Directors (2009-2019), and the Scientific Advisory Board of the Netherlands Institute of Ecology (2007-2018). He 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 in recognition of his contributions to soil ecology. 

Richard has a long-standing commitment to promoting awarness of soil biodiversuty research. To this end, he was a founder member of the Global Soil Biodiversity Initiative (GSBI), established in 2011 to create a global platform for the translation of expert knowledge on soil biodiversity into policy, and he contributed to the UN's Intergovernmental Technical Panel on Soils report The Status of the World's Soil Resources (2015) and the UK Governments Soil Health Enquiry (2016) and Climate Change Risk Assessment (2017). He was also a coordinating lead author of the UK's National Ecosystem Assessment (2011). 


2023    Appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) 

2020    ERC Advanced Grant 

2020    Guest Professor University Innsbruck 

2023    Clarivate Highly Cited Researcher

2022    Clarivate Highly Cited Researcher

2021     Clarivate Highly Cited Researcher

2020    Clarivate Highly Cited Researcher 

2019    Clarivate Highly Cited Researcher

2017    Clarivate Highly Cited Researcher 

2015    Elected Member Academia Europaea

2015    Doctor Honoris Causa, Hasselt University, Belgium

2015    Thomas Rueters Highly Cited Research  

2011    Visiting Professor Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne

2011    Elected Fellow Royal Society Biology (FRSB)

2009    ISI Highly Cited Researcher

2009    Visiting Researcher, NERC Centre for Population Biology, Silwood

2006    Elected Fellow Royal Society New Zealand

2006    March Ecology Book of the Year Award, BES

2003    Erskine Fellow, University of Canterbury, New Zealand

1998    OECD Fellowship, Landcare Research, New Zealand

1995    Recipient BBSRC Science Communication Award 

1992    George Stapleton Memorial Fellow, DSIRO, Upper Hutt, New Zeland

1986    Syndney Houre Collons Prize, University of Newcastle 

External roles      

2023-            Chair BBSRC Biological Diversity Expert Working Group 

2023              Chair UKRI/Defra Innovation Environmental Monitoring Panel

2023-2024    Chair ERC Advanced Grant Panel (LS8)

2021 -            Defra's Science Advisory Council, Member 

2017-2019     President British Ecological Society 

2019-2021     Royal Flemish Adademy of Belgium, Thinker in Residence 

2019 -            Member Royal Society Newton International Fellowships Committee

2017 -            Member Royal Society International Exchanges Committee 

2014 -            Member Royal Society Biological Sciences Grants Panel

2014               Member Leverhulme Trust's Research Leadership Awards Panel

2014 -            Member CEH Science Development Group 

2013 -            Reader L'Oreal-UNESCO Women in Science Fellowships

2011-2014     Vice President British Ecological Society 

2013-2018     Chair BBSRC Research Committee E

2013-2018     Member BBSRC Research Advisory Panel 

2012-2013     NERC Soil Security Programme Lead 

2010-2016      Member BBSRC Strategic Lola Committee and Appointments Board 

2009-2019     Director, Rothamsted Board of Directors

2007-2019     Scientific Advisory Committee Netherlands Insititute for Ecology 

2006-present  Executive Editor Journal of Ecology

2006-present  Editorial Board Ecology Letters and Ecosystems 

Current and recently completed grants 

ERC Advanced Grant (2021-2026) Diversity, stability and functioning of the soil microbiome (SoilResist). Total Euro 2.49 million

NERC (2020-2023) Cross-season legacy effects of climaet extremes on apline soil microbial communities. Total £667,743 (Pi with Co-I's Rob Griffiths, CEH, Michael Bahn, Innsbruck, and Michael Schloter, Munich) 

NERC (2020-2023) Detecting degradation and restoration through a novel coupled sensor and machine learning framework. Total £998,911 ($487,108 to UoM; Co-I with PI's John Quinton, Lanacster and Jason Neff, Colorado). 

NERC (2017-2020) SoIl microbial communities and biogeochemical CYcles in alpine ecosystems. Total £799,965 (PI with Co-I's Rob Griffiths, CEH, Michael Bahn, Innsbruck, and Michael Schloter, Munich) 

BBSRC GCRF (2019-2021) Restoring African degraded landscapes with plant biodiversiuty and livestock management. Total £1,392,314 (£310,298 to UoM; Co-I with PI Mariana Rufino, Lancaster University)  

BBSRC GCRF (2017-2019) Restoring soil function and resilience to degraded grasslands. Total £644,647 (PI with co-I's Nick Ostle and John Quinton, Lancaster)

NERC (2015-2018) Controls on the stability of soil and their functioning under land use and climate change. Total £1.6 million (PI with co-I's D Johnson, E Baggs, T Caruso, M Emmerson)

NERC (2016-2017) Controls on the stability of soil and their functioning capital equipment. Total £300k

NERC (2011-2016) Biodiversity and the provision of multiple ecosystem services in current and future lowland multifunctional landscapes. Total £554,000 (Soil component of NERC Wessex-BESS with James Bullock) 

NERC (2017-2019) Resilience and regime shifts in peatland microbial communities. Total £340,000. 

BBSRC (2011-2017) Linkages between plant functional diversity, soil biological communities and ecosystem services in agricultural grasslands. Total £1.45 million (PI with co-I's E Baggs, D. Johnson, N Ostle). 

BBSRC (2014-2018) A plant-microbial framework for interrogating soil functioning. Total £41,868. 

BBSRC Optimizing grazing management for climate mitigation. Total £94,126. 




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. 

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 4 - Quality Education
  • SDG 6 - Clean Water and Sanitation
  • SDG 7 - Affordable and Clean Energy
  • SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • SDG 9 - Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure
  • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • SDG 12 - Responsible Consumption and Production
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action
  • SDG 14 - Life Below Water
  • SDG 15 - Life on Land
  • SDG 17 - Partnerships for the Goals

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Manchester Environmental Research Institute


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