Global Ecosystem Function

A CEES project

An expanding population, with expanding resource use per capita, is resulting in an alarming loss and degradation of ecosystems. In order to balance the need for increased food, timber and textiles production, with industrial use of natural resources, with the healthy functioning of natural, semi-natural and artificial ecosystems, we require predictive, global models of the response of ecosystems to various human activities.

CEES is working with the United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre ( UNEP-WCMC ), to develop just such a model. By combing different strands of ecological theory – from the behaviour of individual animals and plants, through communities and foodwebs, to ecosystem function and biogeochemistry – we aim to produce a novel 'General Ecosystem Model', GEM, that is useful both for guiding policy in the near term, and for guiding environmental research in the longer term. Moreover, we aim to provide others with the software tools needed to build such models. In this way, we hope to trigger the development of a number of (healthily) competing models of global ecosystem function.

We have just completed the first prototype of our GEM called the Madingley Model. You can read more about the model at We also have a comment piece in Nature  ('Time to Model All Life on Earth'), calling for other groups to build GEMs and outlining how this can be done.


People associated with this project

  Dr Drew Purves (Head of CEES)

  Dr Jorn Scharlemann (Formerly at UNEP-WCMC, now Reader in Ecology and Evolution, University of Sussex)

  Dr Tim Newbold (Joint postdoc with UNEP-WCMC)

  Dr Mike Harfoot (Joint postdoc with UNEP-WCMC)

  Dr Derek Tittensor (Joint postdoc with UNEP-WCMC)

  Dr Lucas Joppa (Scientist, CEES group)

  Dr Vassily Lyutsarev (Senior Developer, CEES group)

  Dr Jon Hutton (Director, UNEP-WCMC)

  Dr Stephen Emmott (Head, Computational Science Lab)