Rob Marchant



My research and teaching interests focus on the theme of vegetation dynamics and ecosystem change. In particular, I use palaeoecology, vegetation modelling, archaeological, biogeographical and ecological data to determine the role of past events in shaping the present day composition and distribution of tropical vegetation. My interest in tropical environments was sparked by a Royal Geographical Society-sponsored expedition to study seagrass and coral ecosystems off Zanzibar. I conducted my PhD research at the University of Hull producing a 50,000-year record of forest history from Bwindi-Impenetrable Forest, Uganda to understand forcing mechanisms (climatic, human and ecological) responsible for sedimentary and vegetation change. From this I moved to the University of Amsterdam to pursue my interests in the spatio-temporal character of vegetation change, now focusing in Latin America through the Biome 6000 project. In 2003 I took a Marie-Curie research fellowship in the School of Botany, Trinity College, Dublin where I have been developing and using a pollen database for Ireland. My main research area remains in tropical environments and I am currently working on projects in Colombia, Amazonia, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. The research I have done has been funded by research councils (e.g. UK’s National Environmental Research Council, The Netherlands Foundation); international agencies (e.g. WWF, the EU); and national governments (e.g. United Kingdom and The Netherlands).



Professor University of York
Reader University of York
PhD Hull
BSc Hull



My main interest is researching processes of environmental change and how these are registered by tropical vegetation, how this may respond in a future of uncertain change and how we can use such information to guide appropriate policy development. My research covers the fields of biogeography, ecology, palaeoecology and ecosystem modelling. Combining these disciplines I develop an understanding, at an ecologically sensible timeframe, of the events that have shaped the past, present and future composition and distribution of tropical ecosystems.

There are three main geographical areas where I have active research programmes – East Africa, Latin America and Ireland. Although these three areas are quite different, there are interesting linkages between them; particularly through the Atlantic Ocean and associated climate interactions and feedbacks to the terrestrial ecosystems. Indeed, as many of the climatic dynamics that have impacted on tropical ecosystems have a global signal understanding the phase relationships of how ecosystems respond to these large scale processes is vital for a considered insight into understanding the spatial pattern and associated impacts of future climate change.

I co-ordinate the York Institute for Tropical Ecosystem (KITE), a Marie-Curie funded Excellence Centre, that explores the relationship between ecosystem dynamics, climate change, and human impacts in Africa. The key elements of the proposal are to:

  • Determine ecosystem response to climate change by focusing on an area of particularly high biodiversity
  • Determine the role of human impacts on present forest composition and long-term ecosystem functioning
  • Determine pollen-vegetation relationships and develop methods to link site-scale fossil data to landscape
  • Develop and test models to link past, present and future ecosystem functioning at different spatial scales
  • Produce results to inform management and policy formation both in the study area and more generically

Other staff with in the Environment Department directly involved in the project include Dr. Jon Lovett for his expertise in tropical ecology and Dr. Colin McClean for his expertise in GIS applications to uncertainty associated with ecological data and bioclimatic model development.

Research group(s)

York Institute for Tropical Ecosystems (KITE)

Marchant, Rob

Contact details

Prof. Rob Marchant
Environment Department
University of York
YO10 5NG

Tel: 01904 324061
Fax: 01904 322998