Professor David J Beerling FRS

Leverhulme Centre for Climate Change Mitigation logo

Prof Dave Beerling

Tel: +44 (0)114 222 4359

Email :

Personal Assistant: Debbie Hill
Tel: +44 (0)114 222 0090


2016-present Director, Leverhulme Centre for Climate Change Mitigation (LC3M), Animal and Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield

2014 Elected Fellow of the Royal Society

2009–2014 Royal Society-Wolfson Research Merit Award holder

2002 Appointed to a Personal Chair, University of Sheffield

2008–2009 Edward P. Bass Distinguished Visiting Environmental Scholar (Yale University)

2001–2003 Philip Leverhulme Prize holder

1994–2002 Royal Society University Research Fellow, University of Sheffield

1990–1993 Postdoctoral research associate (×2, NERC, EU)

1990 PhD (botany), University of Wales, College of Cardiff

1987 Honours Botany, University of Wales, College of Cardiff

Key Research Interests

image of research

My interdisciplinary research group focuses on fundamental questions concerning how photosynthetic terrestrial ecosystems and the global environment co-evolved over the last half billion years. Our approach integrates evidence from fossils, experiments with terrestrial organisms, and rigorous theoretical models applied across spatial scales. We focus particularly on key processes and interactions important for revealing insights into the conquest of the land by plants, and the role of terrestrial ecosystems in shaping global ecology, climate and atmospheric composition. Our research findings also inform understanding of current anthropogenic climate change issues facing humanity.

Selected Professional Activities (since 2010)

2013-2015 Royal Society Newton International Fellowship Board.
2011-2012 Series Consultant, BBC2 Television, How to Grow a Planet.
2009-2012 Board of Advisors, Annals of Botany Plants (Oxford University Press).
2007-2011 Scientific Steering Committee, NERC/WUN Weathering Science Consortium.
2008-2010 ARC-NZ Network for Vegetation Function, Working Group 50: Stomata and Climate Change.
2000-2003 NERC, Atmospheric Sciences Peer Review Committee.
2014 Editorial Board, Royal Society Open Science
2013 Federation of European Societies of Plant Biology (FESPB) Scientific Programme Committee.
2012 Advisory Group, Society of Experimental Biology.
2011 Origins of C4 grasslands Working Group, National Evolutionary Synthesis Centre (Durham, NC).
2011 Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences Working Group: Climate Sensitivity.
2010 NASA/GISS (New York) Working Group: Climate sensitivity in the Anthropocene.

Selected Invited Lectures (since 2010)

2014 PLENARY. Geochemistry at the Earth's Surface, Paris, France
2014 PLENARY. Plant Biology Europe FESPB/EPSO Congress, Dublin, UK
2014 KEYNOTE GRC CO2 assimilation from genome to biome, New Hampshire, USA
2013 HOLDEN BOTANY LECTURE, University of Nottingham, UK
2013 PLENARY. 16th International Congress of Photosynthesis, St Louis, Missouri, USA
2012 KEYNOTE. Society for Experimental Biology, Salzburg, Austria
2012 THE ROTHAMSTED LECTURE, Rothamsted Research, Harpenden
2011 PLENARY. 4th Annual Journée d'Ecologie Toulousaine Symposium, INRA, Toulouse, France
2011 KEYNOTE. Centenary Symposium, British Ecological Society (Journal of Ecology)
2011 PLENARY. Darwin Centre for Biogeosciences, Netherlands
2011 PLENARY. South African Association of Botanists Annual Conference, Rhodes University, USA
2010 PLENARY. 25th New Phytologist Symposium, Bristol, UK

Research Group

Graduate Students

Dimitar Epihov

Dimitar Epihov (ERC, 2014-2018) Feedbacks of nodulating plants on geochemical processes
(with Lisa Smith and Jonathan Leake)

Hannah Sewell

Hannah Sewell (Grantham Scholar, 2014-2018) Genetic controls on the CO2 responses of stomatal development in Arabidopsis
(with Stuart Casson and Julie Gray)

Daniel Wood

Daniel Wood (2014-2018) Did aquatic lycopods and angiosperms use the same genetic toolkits to evolve convergent ecological adaptations?
(with Pascal-Antoine Christin and Colin Osborne)

Angesh Anupam

Angesh Anupam (Grantham Scholar, 2014-2018) Computational simulation of plant-soil water processes for design of agricultural production
(with Visakan Kadirkamanathan and Steve Banwart)

Harriet Moore (ERC, 2014-2018). Cenozoic fire and C4 grasslands
(with Professor P Wilson (Southampton) and Dr CP Osborne)

Postdoctoral Research Associates

Dr Chandra Bellasio (ERC, 2014-2018) Carbon dioxide starvation, drought, tree mortality and mineral weathering
(with Dr CP Osborne and Professor JR Leake)

Dr Anya Crocker (ERC, 2014-2016) Cenozoic African C4 grassland expansion, terrestrial weathering and fire
National Oceanography Centre, University of Southampton
(with Professor PA Wilson, Dr CP Osborne and Dr C Belcher)

quirk-joe.jpgDr Joe Quirk (ERC, 2014-2016) Carbon dioxide regulation of biological silicate weathering: from metabolomics-to microorganisms
(with Professor JR Leake and Professor SA Banwart)

taylor-lyla.jpgDr Lyla Taylor (NERC, 2012-2015) Methane and Palaeogene greenhouse climates
(with Professor Pancost (Bristol), Dr Singarayer (Bristol) and Professor Collinson (Royal Holloway, London)).

Technical Support

Image of David Johnson

Dr David Johnson (NERC)

Undergraduate Teaching

My research interests are generally reflected in my undergraduate graduate teaching through the following level 3 and level 4 modules.

  • 1. Co-ordinator and lecturer on Level 3 Module APS313 Global Change
  • 2. Co-ordinator and lecturer on Level 4 Module APS407 Research and Study Skills in Biology

In addition, I contribute to a Level 2 module World Ecosystems (APS 223), which explores the functioning and diversity of the world's ecosystems. Level 3 and 4 undergraduate Research Projects in my lab also have investigated plants responses to past, present and future atmospheric CO2 concentrations and CO2 effects on functional aspects of early land plant partnerships with mycorrhizal fungi.

Selected Publications


Beerling, D.J. (2007) The Emerald Planet. How plants changed Earth´s history. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Beerling, D.J. & Woodward, F.I. (2001) Vegetation and the terrestrial carbon cycle. Modelling the first 400 million years. Cambridge University Press.

image of The Emerald Planet

Praise for The Emerald Planet:

'My favourite non-fiction book this year'
Oliver Sacks, Book of the year, The Observer

'A gorgeous book about plants'
Steven Poole, The Guardian

Paul Falkowski, Nature

2012 BBC Two television series: How to Grow a Planet

How to grow a planet imageThe Emerald Planet presented a closely argued case for recognizing the role of plants in shaping Earth’s history and formed the basis of a major three-part BBC Two television series, How to Grow a Planet, presented by Iain Stewart.

Professor Beerling acted as the Scientific Consultant.

The series considerably enhanced public awareness of this emerging scientific theme, attracting average viewing figures of 1.7 million.

Edited Volumes (2007-2012)

Beerling, D.J. (editor) (2012) Atmospheric CO2 and the evolution of photosynthetic eukaryotes: from enzymes to ecosystems [thematic issue]. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, B367, 477-629.

Beerling, D.J. (editor) (2009) Coevolution of photosynthetic organisms and the environment [special Issue]. Geobiology, 7, 97-264.

Beerling, D.J., Hewitt, C.N., Pyle, J.A. & Raven, J.A. (editors) (2007) Trace gas biogeochemistry and global change [discussion meeting]. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, A365, 1627-1954.

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