Biosphere Evolution, Transitions & Resilience (BETR)

Insect fossil

BETR is a joint programme between NERC and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC). The aim of the BETR programme is to advance understanding of the evolution of the biosphere by integrating excellent palaeoscience (eg palaeontology, geochemistry, geochronology and phylogenomics) and cutting edge modelling.

Biosphere Evolution, Transitions & Resilience: First science meeting

Closing date: 30 Nov

28 Nov 2018

The BETR programme is holding its first science meeting, Earth System transitions - How resilient is the biosphere?, on the 17-18 January 2019 at the Geological Society, London.

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Studying the fossil record can provide insights into how the biosphere responds to change, including if there are traits whose loss can precipitate ecosystem collapse and whether there is a relationship between biodiversity and biosphere resilience. A better understanding of how ecosystems have responded to change in the past can therefore enable better predictions of how present day ecosystems will respond to future change.

To determine the rates and causes of change in the fossil record a diverse range of geological, biotic and geochemical data needs to be integrated; and this integration is dependent on having tightly constrained ages for the datasets. The aim of the BETR programme is to support the interdisciplinary research needed to determine the rates and causes of change. This aim will be achieved by combining geochemical, geochronological and palaeontological data into a common geospatial framework which is integrated process-based models of evolutionary ecology coupled to biogeochemistry and climate.

The programme will address three key questions:

  1. When and how were the stability/resilience regimes of the biosphere transformed?
  2. Do environmental or biotic drivers govern evolutionary change?
  3. How have the coupled biogeochemical cycles changed through time?

To help build partnerships and facilitate collaboration, NERC and NSFC with support from UKRI China and the Chinese Academy of Sciences Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology held a joint workshop in May 215 in Nanjing. The aim of the workshop was to discuss the key science challenges in this area and the outcome of the workshop has been used to shape the scope of the call for research proposals.

While projects may tackle different issues, there will be potential benefits from close collaborations between different research projects.


2016 - 2020

Can I apply for a grant?

Opportunities will be listed on the BETR news page when available.


NERC have a budget of £4 million to fund UK-based researchers and NSFC have a matched budget to fund eligible Chinese-based researchers.

Programme awards

Award details are shown in our live online grants browser - Grants on the Web (GOTW).

View live details of BETR funded grants - external link

Panel membership

Biosphere Evolution, Transitions & Resilience moderating panel October 2016 (PDF, 42KB)

Biosphere Evolution, Transactions and Resilience (BETR) panel outcomes - July 2016) (PDF, 126KB)

Programme Coordination Team (PCT)

The Programme Coordination Team (PCT) will manage the delivery of the programme, including knowledge exchange and data management activities.

Programme Coordination Team membership:

  • Professor Graham Shields-Zhou, University College London
  • Professor Paul Valdes, University of Bristol
  • Professor Paul Wignall, University of Leeds