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Manchester Environmental Research Institute

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Our changing Earth system

The Earth is changing at an unprecedented rate, our research sets out to understand why and contribute to the challenge of living in the Anthropocene.

Globally, human activity is causing significant changes to the Earth. The effects of these changes are complex and rapidly evolving, and we need to ensure that they do not interfere with the Earth's delicately balanced ecosystems. We need to adapt to our changing environment and we need to understand the nature, causes and impact of these changes.

MERI brings together the natural and social sciences to provide a unique breadth of expertise to understand the physical, biological and chemical changes in the Earth system and make a major contribution to the challenge of living in the modern age.

Our research spans several areas and comes together to inform and guide change in our society, policies and lifestyles.

Our key areas:

Climate change

Climate change is one of the world’s most pressing environmental challenges. MERI’s cross-disciplinary approach to climate change research allows us to tackle the challenge from multiple angles at once. Our researchers specialise in areas including; emissions, energy systems, carbon budgets and pathways, management and mitigation, and political and social responses, which contribute to making our society healthier and more sustainable.

History of our Earth

Studying the Earth’s history and how past human populations interacted with it gives us valuable insight into contemporary environmental changes. By studying key areas such as; landscape evolution, geochronology, geological influences on past climate, palaeoclimates, palaeoecology and palaeontology, our experts can identify trends in the data that may pave the way to action that could mitigate climate change.

Biodiversity and environmental change

Biodiversity is one of the key markers of a healthy ecosystem, but changes in the environment are having catastrophic effects on biodiversity. Our research looks at the drivers of biodiversity change over various scales and looks at the implications of genetic and species diversity and environmental change on the Earth system. We have expertise in the drivers of environmental change, ecological and evolutionary processes, carbon and nutrient cycling, ecosystem services, plant and soil interactions and responses to environmental change.

Extreme events

In the last few decades we have seen more extreme events such as floods, hurricanes and wildfires that decimate human habitation and local environments. These extreme events are due, in part, to climate change and our interactions with the environment. We are working to understand the drivers and impacts of a wide range of extreme events and developing solutions to assess, manage and mitigate them.

Perturbations to the natural world

We, as humans are impacting the earth in multiple ways and it is our responsibility to be aware of this impact and mitigate its damage. Our researchers look at the physical, biological, and chemical processes that drive this impact, including; pollution, environmental tipping points and thresholds, ecosystem service quantification/valuation, environmental restoration and management.

Plastics in the natural environment

Plastics are versatile, durable, and ubiquitous in modern society; as a consequence, there is growing concern over plastic waste in the natural environment. Our research aims to identify the sources and pathways that plastics take into natural systems, and to identify the contexts in which they are ultimately sequestered, and the ecosystems they affect. Our expertise spans ecotoxicology, fluvial geomorphology, geology, sedimentology, nano- and microplastic extraction methods, plastic identification and characterisation, and covers the Earth’s surface, from mountain tops to lowland rivers and submarine trenches. We work across urban and natural environments. Ultimately this research aims to understand the nature of plastic contamination so we can develop strategies for mitigation, and techniques to evaluate the impact of mitigation attempts.