L & F Lab
The Land use and Food systems Lab at the University of Edinburgh
The Land use and Food systems (L&F) Lab is an interdisciplinary group modelling global food systems. Combining expertise from ecology, engineering, economics and social science, we apply state-of-the-art models to understand the social, economic and ecological interactions and trade-offs in globally interconnected land use systems. Current projects include:
- Resilience of the UK Food System to Global Shocks (RUGS)
- UK Socioeconomic Scenarios for Climate Adaptation and Mitigation Research (UK-SSP)
- Land Manager and Farmer Behaviour Agent Based Modelling scoping for Defra
The research group also supervises students’ dissertations.
We welcome proposals for engaging with your research projects, including supervising research students. Please have a look at the previous research projects and papers below, as well as the topics considered by current and former students.
Research Staff & Students
Dr Peter Alexander
Peter is senior lecturer whose main interest are the interactions within national and global food systems and land use, combining social, economic and environmental considerations. His research applies data and computationally intensive techniques, such as agent-based modelling, to improve understanding of the human-natural interactions including behavioural aspects of decision making. Prior to his academic career, Peter ran a livestock farm in Scotland and before this worked as a quantitative financial modeller in investment banks.
Dr Roslyn Henry
Roslyn’s research interests lie in exploring the interplay between food security, land use and biodiversity. Her background is in ecology and evolution and she completed her PhD at the University of Aberdeen.
Dr Frances Warren (formerly Cossar)
Frances is an economist with a diverse background working on national budgets in Rwanda, global manufacturing value chains, agricultural mechanization in Ghana, and now focusing on the environment and socio-economic implications of global and UK food systems. She also enjoys the challenge of teaching environmental economics in the department, running up Edinburgh’s hills, and some amateur musical pursuits.
Dr Juliette Maire
Juliette has just completed her PhD at the University of Edinburgh on novel approaches to capture spatial and temporal variability of nitrous oxide emissions from grazed grassland in the UK and in Ireland. Prior to her PhD, she worked as an engineer and research assistant in Australia, France and Scotland on topics from monitoring forest phenology using an automated camera to modelling European crops rotation to assess the cost efficiency and environmental benefices of adding more legumes into the rotation. Juliette has a background on the sustainable development of agriculture and agroecology.
Dr Joe Kennedy
Joe has a research background in theoretical physics and cosmology with a focus on developing methods to test competing models of cosmic acceleration. After completing his PhD at the University of Edinburgh, he moved to the University of Geneva to pursue research in the use of artificial intelligence methods to test fundamental physics with cosmological data. Motivated by the urgent need to tackle the interconnected challenges of climate change, public health and biodiversity loss he has now switched fields to put his experience in physics to use in more terrestrial applications. With support from the Wellcome Trust, together with Peter Alexander and Lindsay Jaacks (Global Academy of Agriculture and Food Security), he is now developing a simulation model to assess the impact of red meat taxes and health and environment warning labels on red meat products on the incidence of chronic diseases in the US.
Magnus has studied Sociology, Politics & Economics in Germany and Ecological Economics in Edinburgh. He is currently working on the interrelations between market power and food system resilience in the RUGS project as well as on the quantification of socioeconomic scenarios for climate impact research in the UK SSP project.
Linking food system shocks with conflict and migration
Clare’s research explores the interaction between food system shocks, conflict and migration and draws from case studies across the globe. She is also considering how, if at all, the use of financial tools like index insurance can improve food security and what impact it can be predicted to have on the conflict/migration nexus.
Shahed analyses possible links between extreme climatic events, food insecurity, and migration in the Southern coastal areas of Bangladesh.
As part of his PhD, Bart is investigating options for land based mitigation of climate change using a global land use modelling framework (PLUM-LPJ-GUESS). This includes looking at trade-offs between food security, carbon emissions, protecting biodiversity, and maintaining ecosystem services.
Sustainably increasing global food production while preventing negative impacts on biodiversity poses a major challenge to society. Current ecological models predict the effect of climate change on biodiversity at a range of spatial scales, but they do not account for the impact of land use change. Tamsin’s PhD aims to integrate ecological and land use models to investigate the combined effects of land use and climate change on the spatial dynamics of pollinators and crop pests, and potential feedbacks on crop productivity and future land use scenarios.
MScR + PhD Candidate
Kirsty came to Edinburgh from the University of Leeds, where she completed an MEnv in Sustainability and Environmental Management. She also spent a year at the University of Adelaide in Australia learning about indigenous culture and making the most of the hiking and outdoor activities on offer. She has recently begun her 1+3 doctoral training programme. Her research will be investigating the competing socio-cultural and environmental narratives around livestock consumption in different cultural contexts, and the role that relational values have to play in these narratives.
Visiting research student
Sofía is visiting from the Public University of Navarre in Zaragoza, Spain. Sofia is analysing the contribution of global food loss and waste to micronutrient deficiency, a type of malnutrition that manifests when micronutrient intake is insufficient. The ultimate aim is to better understand the sources of these losses and improve food system efficiency and food security.
Completed Research Projects
- Review of alternative protein sources for a report to CCC on greenhouse gas emission associated with land use (2019)
- ESRC funded project “Sustainable Agricultural Intensification and the Nexus in Brazil” (2016-2019)
- GCRF networking grant considering food security and sustainability implications from cashew production in Guinea-Bissau (2017)
- Project for the CCC on land use and environmental outcomes from mitigation and adaptation scenarios (2016-2017)
- Land use change: Assessing the net climate forcing, and options for climate change mitigation and adaptation (LUC4C)
- Consortium with industry, with E.ON and Ecometrica, to work with the UK biomass industry. Technology Strategy Board (Innovate UK) and NERC funded (2013-2014)
- Spatial mapping and evaluation of energy crop distribution in Great Britain to 2050 (2010-2014)
- Scoping project on assisting the UK biomass energy market, awarded by NERC (2013)
Completed PhD and MSc Projects
- Maggie March (PhD): Assessing the performance and sustainability of dairy farming systems.
- Harry Kamilaris (PhD): Modelling of alternative management practices for sustainable beef finishing systems
- Magnus Merkle (MSc): Carbon emission reductions and employment effects – A twofold investigation of policy evaluation and empirical pathways using input-output data based structural decomposition
- Matteo Sposato (MSc): Exploring deforestation in Rondônia, Brazil, by combining agent-based modelling, GIS and linear programming
- Anji Reddy (MSc): Capacity for change through marginal gains: Exploring potential reductions in land used to produce food
- Clare Dias (MSc): Using insects as an alternative protein source in Scotland: Ecological impacts and consumer perspectives
- Jiao Lu (MSc): The impacts of policy changes on perennial energy crops market in the UK
Some select papers
Moran, D., Cossar, F., Merkle, M., Alexander, P., 2020. UK food system resilience tested by COVID-19. Nat. food 1, 242. https://doi.org/10.1038/s43016-020-0082-1
Agnolucci, P., Rapti, C., Alexander, P., Lipsis, V. De, Holland, R.A., Eigenbrod, F., Ekins, P., 2020. Impacts of rising temperatures and farm management practices on global yields of 18 crops. Nat. Food 1. https://doi.org/10.1038/s43016-020-00148-x
Rabin, S.S., Alexander, P., Henry, R., Anthoni, P., Pugh, T.A.M., Rounsevell, M., Arneth, A., 2020. Impacts of future agricultural change on ecosystem service indicators. Earth Syst. Dyn. 11, 357–376. https://esd.copernicus.org/articles/11/357/2020
Bahar, N.H.A., Lo, M., Sanjaya, M., Vianen, J. Van, Alexander, P., Ickowitz, A., 2020. Meeting the food security challenge for nine billion people in 2050: What impact on forests? Glob. Environ. Chang. 62. https://doi.org/doi.org/10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2020.102056
Molotoks, A., Henry, R., Stehfest, E., Doelman, J., Havlik, P., Krisztin, T., Alexander, P., Dawson, T.P., Smith, P., 2019. Comparing the impact of future cropland expansion on global biodiversity and carbon storage across models and scenarios. Philos. Trans. R. Soc. B. https://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2019.0189
Müller, B., Hoffmann, F., Heckelei, T., Muller, C., Hertel, T., Polhill, J., Wijk, M. van, Achterbosch, T., Alexander, P., Brown, C., Kreuer, D., Ewert, F., Ge, J., Millington, J., Seppelt, R., Verburg, P.H., Webber, H., 2020. Modelling Food Security: Bridging the Gap between the Micro and the Macro Scale. Glob. Environ. Chang. 63. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0959378019307277Brown, C., Alexander, P., Arneth, A., Holman, I., Rounsevell, M., 2019. Achievement of Paris climate goals unlikely due to time lags in the land system. Nat. Clim. Chang. 9, 203–208. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-019-0400-5
Fuchs, R., Alexander, P., Brown, C., Cossar, F., Henry, R., Rounsevell, M., 2019. US–China trade war imperils Amazon rainforest. Nature 567, 451–454. https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-00896-2
Henry, R.C., Engström, K., Olin, S., Alexander, P., Arneth, A., Rounsevell, M.D.A., 2018. Food supply and bioenergy production within the global cropland planetary boundary. PLoS One 13, e0194695. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0194695
Alexander, P., Rabin, S., Anthoni, P., Henry, R., Pugh, T.A.M., Rounsevell, M.D.A., Arneth, A., 2018. Adaptation of global land use and management intensity to changes in climate and atmospheric carbon dioxide. Glob. Chang. Biol. 24, 2791–2809. https://doi.org/10.1111/gcb.14110
de Oliveira Silva, R., Barioni, L.G., Hall, J.A.J., Moretti, A.C., Fonseca Veloso, R., Alexander, P., Crespolini, M., Moran, D., 2017. Sustainable intensification of Brazilian livestock production through optimized pasture restoration. Agric. Syst. 153, 201–211. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.agsy.2017.02.001
Alexander, P., Moran, D., 2017. Rethinking food waste for a healthier planet. Lancet Planet Heal. 1, e170–e171. https://doi.org/10.1016/S2542-5196(17)30077-3
Alexander, P., Prestele, R., Verburg, P., Arneth, A., Baranzelli, C., Silva, F.B. e, Brown, C., Butler, A., Dendoncker, N., Doelman, J., Dunford, R., Engström, K., Fujimori, S., Harrison, P., Hasegawa, T., Holzhauer, S., Humpenöder, F., Jacobs-Crisioni, C., Jain, A., Kyle, P., Lavalle, C., Lenton, T., Liu, J., Meiyappan, P., Popp, A., Powell, T., Sands, R., Schaldach, R., Stehfest, E., Steinbuks, J., Tabeau, A., Meijl, H. van, Wise, M., Rounsevell, M.D.A., 2017. Assessing uncertainties in land cover projections. Glob. Chang. Biol. 23, 767–81. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/gcb.13447