£15 million for new research into major environmental topics

29 January 2020

New research on major environmental issues, such as the understanding impacts of UK wildfires, assessing large scale ecological responses to environmental change and the impact of legacy waste on the coastal zone, have been funded under the fifth round of NERC highlight topics.


Around £15 million has been split between 7 research projects spanning a wide range of important topics generated by the UK environmental science community. The selection of highlight topic projects is a competitive process to ensure that the most excellent science is funded.

From understanding the likelihood and impact of UK wildfires, to investigating the impact of experimental deep-sea mining in the Central Pacific, these awards fund research areas essential to help us understand our environment and how we live within it.

Professor Susan Waldron, NERC’s Director of Research and Skills, said:

“I am delighted to announce the fifth round of Highlight Topic awards.  The research funded is timely and will contribute to developing solutions to some of the major challenges facing society. The successful proposals address important issues ranging from understanding large-scale ecological responses to environmental change, to the challenge of sourcing technology enabling mineral resources.”

The highlight topics covered and the projects awarded funding are as follows:

Highlight topic - Understanding the likelihood and impact of UK wildfires

  • Toward a UK fire danger rating system: Understanding fuels, fire behaviour and impacts – Gareth Clay, The University of Manchester

Highlight topic - Impact of experimental deep-sea mining in the Central Pacific: A new inter-disciplinary challenge for UK environmental science

  • Seabed Mining And Resilience To EXperimental impact – Daniel Jones, National Oceanography Centre

Highlight topic - Assessing large scale ecological responses to environmental change

  • Mechanisms and prediction of large-scale ecological responses to environmental change – Axel Rossberg, Queen Mary, University of London
  • The coherence of ecological stability among ecosystems and across ecological scales – Andrew Beckerman, University of Sheffield

Highlight topic - The impact of legacy waste in the coastal zone

  • Legacy wastes in the coastal zone: Environmental risks and management futures – Adam Jarvis, Newcastle University
  • Uptake of chemicals from legacy waste sites in coastal food webs and effects on higher predators – Francis Daunt, UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology

Highlight topic - The mineral systems approach to exploration and discovery of new sediment-hosted copper (Co, V) deposits

  • Copper Basin Exploration Science (CuBES) – Stephen Roberts, University of Southampton