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Professor Tim Benton

Professor of Population Ecology
Areas of expertise
food systems; sustainability; climate change; ecology; evolution; agriculture; policy; biodiverisity; population dynamics
Manton 8.06
Faculty of Biological Sciences
School of Biology

The world is changing rapidly leading to pressures on existing ecosystems. How will we be able to live equitably and sustainably in a world of finite resources, when our demands for exploiting resources - specifically for food, but generally for economic growth - are growing?  I am interested in how ecological systems underpin the services on which we rely, and how they respond to change. Ultimately, the goal is to ensure that ecosystem services are preserved in the face of change.

The severe environmental challenges of the 21st Century are summarised by John Beddington's term "The Perfect Storm": how do we provide nutritious food for the growing global population, whilst coping with climate change, reduction in carbon usage, and by not simply using more land? My interests focus around how we can do this most "sustainably": building food systems that are resilient, that do not undermine the world's natural capital, that leave space for nature, and supply a sufficient amount of nutritious food to underpin global public health. . My research career has been centred on the linkage between organisms and environmental changes, and my research in the agri-environment sphere also focusses on how farming drives ecological dynamics (at field, landscape and larger scales, up to global). In the lab, I ran a 20 year programme experimentally dissescting the relationship between food supply, individuals' life-histories and population dynamics, using a soil mite model system.

I have used a variety of techniques through my career (including field and lab work, statistical, numerical and analytical modelling) and have held positions at UEA (postdoc), Cambridge University Press (Science Editor), Stirling University (lecturer and Senior Lecturer), Aberdeen University (Senior Lecturer) and Leeds (Professor, 2005, Director of the Institute of Integrative and Comparative Biology (2005 -2007), Pro-Dean for Research (2007-2011). From 2011-2016, I was UK Champion for Global Food Security, acting as ambassador and spokesperson for matters to do with food and food security, and coordinating work across this area between research councils and government departments.I am currently Dean for Strategic Research Initiatives at Leeds and a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, Chatham House. I work also as a Global Agenda Steward for the World Economic Forum, and an author for the IPCC's Special Report on Land, Food and Climate.


  • Dean for Strategic Research Initiatives

Research interests