Professor Gareth Phoenix

Image of Gareth Phoenix

Tel: +44 (0)114 222 0082

Email :

Room C203, Alfred Denny Building



BSc, University of Edinburgh (1996)
PhD, University of Sheffield (2000)
NERC post-doctoral research associate, University of Sheffield (2000-2003)
Departmental research associate and teaching fellow, University of Sheffield (2003-2004)
RCUK academic fellow, University of Sheffield (2005-2009)
Lecturer, University of Sheffield (2010-2011)
Senior Lecturer, University of Sheffield (2011-2014)
Reader in Plant Ecology, University of Sheffield (2015-2018)
Professor of Plant & Global Change Ecology (2018- present)                                                                     

Key Research Interests

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My research focuses on the interactions between plants and the environment, particularly in the Arctic, northern boreal and upland ecosystems.

I study the impacts of climate change (warming, extreme events, snow regime change, precipitation), UV-B radiation and pollution on ecosystem structure and function.

I'm interested in the impacts on biodiversity, on cycling of carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus, and the consequences for feedback to climate (ecosystem carbon balance). I also aim to understand how responses observed at the vegetation/ecosystem level are driven by individual plant, root and leaf responses.

Other interests include more applied fields such as understanding nutrient acquisition for sustainable agriculture.

Professional Activities

NERC Training Advisory Board (TAB) member (2016-present)
Editorial Advisory Board - Global Change Biology (2007-present)
Associate Editor - Functional Ecology (2005–2011)
Member of Council - British Ecological Society (2005–2009)
University Representative - British Ecological Society (2004–2009)
Steering Committee member, CAPER (Committee on Air Pollution Effects Research) (2006-present)
NERC peer review college (2008-present)


Professor Gareth Phoenix is APS liaison for the Environmental Science degree, ad-hoc member of the Teaching Committee and co-ordinates APS118 tutorials for Environmental Science students.

At level 1, I teach APS124 (Ecosystems and Environmental Change). My main research interests are the impacts of global change on ecosystems, and this course gives me a chance to teach this fascinating area to new students. I cover a diversity of topics, from how past climates have influenced the development of ecosystems in the UK, to the threats of contemporary climate change. The latter includes findings from some of our own work undertaken here in APS. The APS118 and APS222 tutorials are also an excellent opportunity to develop discussion and debate on these topics as well as helping students develop generic skills in writing, critical analysis, experimental design and oral communication.

My own research includes work on Peak District ecosystems, and at level 2, we use this area to study the interaction between ecosystems and the environment in APS246 (Plant Habitats and Distributions). Here we use a combination of lectures, laboratory classes and field visits. These ideas are expanded further in APS273 (Population and Community Ecology 2) where I teach how plant diversity and the composition of species influence how an ecosystem functions (for instance, the ecosystem’s capacity to sequester carbon from the atmosphere, cycle nutrients or trap pollutants).

My key area of research – Arctic ecosystems and environmental change – informs my teaching at level 3. Here, in addition to lecturing on plant adaptations to arctic environments in APS325 (Life in Extreme Environments), I teach on the Arctic Ecosystems field course (APS343) to Abisko in northern Sweden. The research station we use is also the home to many of my field experiments and so in addition to teaching more generally about Arctic ecosystems, this course offers students the opportunity to learn about, and work on, on-going Arctic research experiments.

The topics of global change, biodiversity and ecosystem functioning are also covered in research projects and dissertations at level 3 (APS330 and 331) and at level 4 (APS402 & 406), where my students address questions concerning the impacts of pollution and climate change (e.g. drought, warming) on plant diversity and ecosystem functioning.

Research Group

PhD Students

Rachael Treharne y
Climate change and pollution as drivers of Arctic browning (NERC funded PhD through ACCE, jointly supervised with Drs Jarle Bjerke and Hans Tømmervik, Norwegian Institute for Nature Research, and Dr Lisa Emberson, University of York).

Kassandra Reuss-Schmidt y
Understanding the impact of climate change on greenhouse gas emissions in the Arctic (NERC funded PhD through ACCE, jointly supervised with Drs Donatella Zona, Garry Hayman, CEH, and Peter Levy, CEH).

Ingrid Robertson y
Mobilisation and use of natural soil phosphorus by crops: towards sustainable crop production (SHINE CDT funded PhD studentship, jointly supervised with Jeremy Craven, and Duncan Cameron).

Scott Davidson y
Climate change and greenhouse gas emission in Arctic tundra: the role of vegetation change on CO2 and CH4 fluxes (NERC funded PhD studentship, jointly supervised with Donatella Zona).

Past Members

Dr James Fisher (2013-2015)
CYCLOPS: Carbon Cycle Linkages in Permafrost Systems (Post-doctoral research associate, NERC Arctic thematic funded).

Dr Steffi Tille (2011-2015)
Engineering and functional mycorrhizosphere for agro-ecosystems (University funded PhD, jointly supervised with Duncan Cameron and Jonathan Leake).

Dr Thomas Young (2011-2014)
Green roof technologies for sustainable urban energy and water management (E-futures and Boningale Ltd funded PhD, jointly supervised with Duncan Cameron and Jeff Sorrill).

Dr Sonal Choudhary (2009-2013)
Impacts of acute nitrogen deposition events on Arctic tundra (NSINK Marie Curie Fellow - staff PhD candidate. Jointly supervised with Malcolm Press, University of Birmingham)

Dr Aimeric Blaud (2008-2012)
Impacts of acute nitrogen deposition events on Arctic soil microbial communities (NSINK Marie Curie Fellow - staff PhD candidate. Jointly supervised with Mark Osborn).

Dr Steven Lees (2008-20120
Impacts of atmospheric nitrogen deposition in grasslands (Defra funded PhD. Jointly supervised with Jonathan Leake).

Dr David A Johnson (2010-2012)
P partitioning among plants in P limited ecosystems (technician, NERC funded).

Dr Eva Koller (2007-2011)
Carbon dynamics in an Arctic catchment: plant scale dynamics (MULTIARC Marie Curie Fellow - staff candidate. Jointly supervised with Malcolm Press).

Dr Nils Ohlanders (2008-2011)
Carbon dynamics in an Arctic catchment: hydrology (MULTIARC Marie Curie Fellow - stadd PhD candidate. Jointly supervised with Andrew Hodson, Dept. Geography).

Dr Catherine Preece (2007-2011)
Impacts of extreme winter warming and icing events on sub-Arctic heathland (NERC PhD studentship, jointly supervised with Terry Callaghan).

Dr Stef Bokhorst (2007-2010)
Impacts of extreme winter warming events in the Arctic (Post-doctoral research associate. Leverhulme Trust funded).

Dr Victoria Sloan (2007-2010)
The role of plant roots in Arctic carbon dynamics (NERC PhD studentship).

Dr Ben Fletcher (2006-2009)
Arctic Bisphere-Atmosphere Coupling at Multiple Scales (NERC Post-doctoral research associate. See

Dr Mike Pilkington (2005-2008)
Impacts of root hemiparasitic plants: regulation of community structure and function (NERC Post-doctoral research associate).

Dr Jill Edmondson (2007-2008)
N pollution impacts on plant P acquisition, and impacts of hemiparasitic plants on nutrient cycling (technician, NERC funded).

Dr Maria Arroniz-Crespo (2005-2007)
Impacts of atmospheric nitrogen deposition on bryophytes in grassland ecosystems (Post-doctoral research associate, Spanish Ministry funded)

Dalia Melebari
Impacts of atmospheric nitrogen deposition on acidic and calcareous grasslands (Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia funded, jointly supervised with Jonathan Leake)

Stephen Muddimer
Plant phosphorus acquisition in P limited ecosystems (NERC funded PhD studentship, jointly supervised with Duncan Cameron)

Selected Recent Publications

Fisher, J.P., Estop-Aragonés, C., Thierry, A., Charman, D.J., Wolfe, S.A., Hartley, I.P., Murton, J.B., Williams, M., Phoenix, G.K. (2016) The influence of vegetation and soil characteristics on active-layer thickness of permafrost soils in boreal forest. Global Change Biology (in press)

Phoenix, G.K., Bjerke, J.W. (2016) Arctic Browning: extreme events and trends reversing arctic greening. Global Change Biology (in press)

Bjerke, J.W., Bokhorst, S., Callaghan, T.V., Phoenix, G.K. (2016) Persistent reduction of segment growth and photosynthesis in a widespread and important sub-Arctic moss species after cessation of three years of experimental winter warming. Fuctional Ecology (in press)

Davidson, S.J., Sloan, V.L., Phoenix, G.K., Wagner, R., Fisher, J.P., Oechel, W.C., Zona, D. (2016) Vegetation type dominates the spatial variability in CH4 emissions across multiple Arctic tundra landscapes. Ecosystems (in press)

Koller, E.K., Press, M.C., Callaghan, T.V., Phoenix, G.K. (2016) Tight coupling between shoot level foliar N and P, leaf area, and shoot growth in arctic dwarf shrubs under simulated climate change. Ecosystems 19: 326-338

Bokhorst, S., Phoenix, G.K., Berg, M.P., Callaghan, T.V.C., Kirby-Lambert, C. and Bjerke, J.W. (2015) Climatic and biotic extreme events moderate to long-term responses of above- and belowground sub-Arctic heathland communities to climate change. Global Change Biology 21: 4063-4075

Sloan, V.L., Fletcher, B.J., Phoenix, G.K. (2015) Contrasting synchrony in root and leaf phenology across multiple sub-Arctic plant communities. Journal of Ecology 104: 239-248

Basto, S., Thompson, K., Phoenix, G., Sloan, V., Leake, J., Rees, M. (2015) Long-term nitrogen deposition depletes grassland seed banks. Nature Communications Article number: 6185, doi: 10.1038/ncomms7185

Zona, D., Lipson, D., Richards, J.H., Phoenix, G.K., Liljedahl, A.K., Ueyama, M., Sturtevant, C. and Oechel, W.C. (2014) Delayed responses of an Arctic ecosystem to an extreme summer: impacts on net ecosystem exchange and vegetation functioning. Biogeosciences 11: 5877-5888

Cavieres, L., Brooker, R., Butterfield, B., Cook, B., Kikvidze, Z., Lortie, C., Michalet, R., Pugnaire, F., Schöb, C., Xiao, S., Anthelme, F., Björk, R., Dickinson, K., Cranston, B., Gavilán, R., Gutiérrez-Girón, A., Kanka, R., Maalouf, J-P., Mark, A., Noroozi, J., Parajuli, R., Phoenix, G., Reid, A., Ridenour, W., Rixen, C., Wipf, S., Zhao, L., Escudero, A., Zaitchik, B., Aschehoug, E., Lingua, E., Callaway, R. (2014) Facilitative plant interactions and climate simultaneously drive alpine plant diversity. Ecology Letters 17: 193-202

Preece, C. & Phoenix, G.K. (2014) Impact of early and late winter icing events on sub-arctic dwarf shrubs. Plant Biology 16: 125-132

Sloan, V.L., Fletcher, B.J., Press, M.C., Williams, M., Phoenix, G.K. (2013) Leaf and fine root carbon stocks and turnover arw coupled across Arctic ecosystems. Global Change Biology 19: 3668-3676

Butterfield, B.J., Cavieres, L.A., Callaway, R.M., Cook, B.J., Kikvidze, Z., Lortie, C.J., Michalet, R., Pugnaire, F.I., Schöb, C., Xiao, S., Zaitchek, B., Anthelme, F., Björk, R.G., Dickinson, K., Gavilán, R., Kanka, R., Maalouf, J-P., Noroozi, J., Parajuli, R., Phoenix, G.K., Reid, A., Ridenour, W., Rixen, C., Wipf, S., Zhao, L., Brooker, R.W. (2013) Alpine cushion plants inhibit the loss of phylogenetic diversity in severe environments. Ecology Letters 16: 478-486

Street, L.E., Subke, J-A., Sommerkorn, M., Sloan, V., Ducrotoy, H., Phoenix, G.K., Williams, M. (2013) The role of mosses in carbon uptake and partitioning in arctic vegetation. New Phytologist 199: 163-175

Hartley, I.P., Garnett, M.H., Sommerkorn, M., Hopkins, D.W., Fletcher, B.J., Sloan, V.L., Phoenix, G.K. & Wookey, P.A. (2012) A potential loss of carbon associated with greater plant growth in the European Arctic. Nature Climate Change 2: 875-879

Phoenix, G.K., Emmett, B.A., Britton, A.J., Caporn, S.J.M., Dise, N.B., Helliwell, R., Jones, M.L.M., Leake, J.R., Leith, I.D., Sheppard, L.J., Sowerby, A., Pilkington, M.G., Rowe, E.C., Ashmore, M.R., Power, S.A. (2012) Impacts of atmospheric nitrogen deposition: responses of multiple plant and soil parameters across contrasting ecosystems in long-term field experiments. Global Change Biology 18: 1197-1215