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L&F Lab

L&F Lab

The Land use and Food systems Lab at the University of Edinburgh

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. We are a core part of the international collaboration that has produced the Land System Modular Model (, and conceived, designed and implement the PLUMv2 model that is a central part of LandSyMM.

Current projects include:

    • “Co-designing Holistic Forest-based Policy Pathways for Climate Change Mitigation (ForestPaths)” receiving €6M funding from EU’s Horizon Europe programme, 2022-2026.
    • “TRAnsforming the DEbate about livestock systems transformation (TRADE)” funded by UKRI under the Transforming the UK Food System for Healthy People and a Healthy Environment Programme, 2022-2025
    • “Joined-up land use strategies tackling climate change and biodiversity loss (MOSAIC)” receiving €6M funding from EU’s Horizon Europe programme, 2023-2028.
    • Building for health centred, net zero aligned Food Systems Transformation – A Living Good Food Nation Lab a Wellcome Trust funded project, 2023-2026
    • Scottish Alliance for Food: health, equity and sustainability (SCAF) a project funded by Scottish Government, 2023-2026.

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

Senior Lecturer

Peter leads the group and his main interests 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.

Edinburgh Research Explorer / Google Scholar
Interview on IPCC report – March 2022
Interview on Ukraine war food impacts – May 2022
Interview on CNBC – June 2022
The Conversation Sep 2022, Feb 2023, June 2023, Feb 2024
RTE 1 – Jan 2023
Pet food sustainablity – Feb 2024

Dr Joe Kennedy

Postdoctoral Researcher

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.

Dr Roslyn Henry

Postdoctoral Researcher at University of Aberdeen

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.   After spending years working on PLUM as part of the group has returned to University of Abereen, but contiunes to work with the group.

Dr Jay Burns

Postdoctoral Researcher

Jay has a wide range of interests in food systems research, particularly with respect to livestock production, and using a range of methodologies including simulation models, econometrics and carbon footprinting. He is currently working on the UKRI funded ‘TRADE’ project, which aims to identify and test desirable scenarios of future livestock systems, and bring stakeholders together to map how we get there.


Dr Juliette Maire

Researcher at Trinity Agtech

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.  She contiunes to work and publish with the group but has now moved to work at Trinity Agtech.

Magnus Merkle

Former Research Assistant and now PhD Candidate at Norwegian University of Life Sciences.

Magnus has studied Sociology, Politics & Economics in Germany and Ecological Economics in Edinburgh. He worked 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.  However is now doing a PhD at Norwegian University of Life Sciences, although still working and publishing with the group.


Bart Arendarczyk

PhD Candidate

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.

Tamsin Woodman

PhD Candidate

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.

Kirsty Blair

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.

Aimen Sattar

PhD Candidate

Aimen is a PhD candidate at the Global Academy of Agriculture and Food Systems, focusing on modelling the agricultural system in Egypt. He will develop a model to investigate the interaction between water resources, farmer cropping decisions, and government policy. Aimen has an engineering background, having previously completed an MEng in Mechanical Engineering and an MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development, and worked as a subsea design engineer. Before joining the University of Edinburgh, Aimen spent 4 years working in the humanitarian sector, helping to deliver medical projects in Africa and the Middle East.

Kaela Connors

PhD Candidate

Kaela’s PhD research will focus on modelling the global environmental and health impacts attributed to food system transition scenarios in the UK. Prior to joining the School of Geosciences and Global Academy of Agriculture and Food Systems, Kaela received her Master’s of Science degree in Global Health and Population from the Harvard T.H Chan School of Public Health. She is broadly interested in studying the intersection between sustainability, food system transitions, and health with a focus on equity. Before her master’s, Kaela spent three years working at the National Institute of Public Health Mexico (INSP) in Mexico City and at the UN World Food Programme in Panama City where she identified her interest in social determinants of health, climate change, and food systems. Her B.A. degree is from the University of California, Berkeley in Political Science and Environmental Economics.

Alexander Vonderschmidt

PhD Candidate

As a PhD student at the Global Academy of Agriculture and Food Security, Alexander will focus his research on modelling the impact of meat reduction on population and environmental health. Alexander completed his master’s degree in nutritional epidemiology at Cornell University in New York (USA) where he also earned his registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) credential. His past research has centered around using epidemiological models to explore longitudinal diet—disease associations. Alexander also holds a BS in dietetics and a BA in French from Kansas State University (USA).

Kaia Waxenberg

PhD Candidate

Kaia is a PhD candidate at the Global Academy of Agriculture and Food Security, using modelling approaches to investigate micronutrient provision through the global food system. Her prior research focused on modelling greenhouse gas emissions from UK farms, and she played a crucial role in developing “Agrecalc,” a prominent carbon calculator for the food industry. Kaia holds an MSc in Environmental Protection and Management from the University of Edinburgh and a BA in Natural Sciences from the University of Cambridge. Her research aims to leverage insights from big data to enhance both environmental and health outcomes within the food system.

Jia Zhou

PhD candidate at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, IMK-IFU

Jia is a PhD candidate at Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Campus Alpin since August, 2023. Based in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, but is co-supervised by Peter. Jia completed her master’s degree in Environmental Economics from Wageningen University in the Netherlands in 2023. She comes from a multidisciplinary background with a bachelor’s degree in agronomy and a minor in finance from China Agricultural University. Her scientific research interests lie where economic modelling, ecosystem services quantification, regenerative agriculture and bioenergy. She focuses on the land use change model (PLUM) using data analysis methods to assess the potential impacts of trade in land-based commodities and related policies on future land use transitions.

Elspeth Horrocks

PhD candidate

Elspeth is a PhD candidate on the University of Edinburgh’s Earth, Ecology and Environment Doctoral Training Partnership (E4DTP). She holds an MSc in Food Security from the University of Glasgow and a BSc (Hons) in Biological Sciences (Ecology & Environmental Management) from Nottingham Trent University. Elspeth’s MSc research focused on dietary trends, particularly the introduction of ultra-processed foods and their impact on the environment and human health. Her PhD research aims to understand micronutrient provision in the changing global food system, highlighting inequalities in food security and health outcomes.

Annie Gregoire

PhD candidate

Annie is a PhD candidate at the University of Edinburgh, on the E4 NERC DTP. Her interests lie broadly in the environmental and socio-economic interactions in the global food system, with a particular interest in impacts and trade-offs related to dietary choices. Her research will focus on modelling the global biodiversity impacts of different diets. Prior to her PhD, Annie worked for three years as an economist on environment, agriculture and development policy in the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, and spent one year as an economist with the Government of Ghana. Annie holds an MSc in Development Economics and a BA in Philosophy, Politics and Economics from the University of Oxford.

Neriman Erdem

Visting PhD candidate from Istanbul Technical University

Neriman is a PhD candidate at the Eurasian Institute of Earth Sciences, Istanbul Technical University. She holds a master’s degree with work on plant-based antimicrobials in food science. Her interest in the cultural ecology and roots of food systems led to her current field. Her research focuses on modeling the connections between historical/archeological agricultural systems, climate changes, and land use transformations in Central Anatolia, Turkey. As a visiting researcher in the Land Use and Food Systems Lab, Neriman aims to enhance her research by using an alternative agent-based model, CRAFTY, and gaining insights into the variations in simulating historical land use patterns between different models.

Completed Research Projects



  • Land Manager and Farmer Behaviour Agent Based Modelling scoping for Defra


  • 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


  • Florian Payen (PhD): Identifying ways to reduce  greenhouse gas emissions through enhanced carbon sequestration in vineyard soils: A case study of Mediterranean vineyards in southern France
  • Vicky Farkasova (MSc): Estimating the costs and benefits from controlling feral pigs in Australia


  • Xandy Dembinski (MSc): The Consumer Acceptance of Cultured Meat Among Young Adults in the UK
  • Sitian Shen (MSc): the change and environmental impacts of pet food consumption by companion dogs and cats in a developing county-level city – Haining in China
  • Yi Zhang (MSc): Assessment of Land Area Require for Global Population Under National Dietary Patterns: A HALF Method Application


  • 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


  • Kerstin Engström (PhD): Pathways to future cropland: Assessing uncertainties in socio-economic processes by applying a global land-use model


  • 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

Brownlie, W.J., Alexander, P., Maslin, M., Cañedo-Argüelles, M., Sutton, M.A., Spears, B.M., 2024. Global food security threatened by potassium neglect. Nature Food.

Vonderschmidt, A., Arendarczyk, B., Jaacks, L.M., Bellows, A.L., Alexander, P., 2024. Analysis combining the multiple FAO food balance sheet datasets needs careful treatment. The Lancet Planetary Health 8, e69–e71.

Alexander, P., Arneth, A., Henry, R., Maire, J., Rabin, S., Rounsevell, M.D.A., 2023. High energy and fertilizer prices are more damaging than food export curtailment from Ukraine and Russia for food prices, health and the environment. Nature Food 4, 84–95.

Alexander, P., Henry, R., Rabin, S., Arneth, A., Rounsevell, M., 2023. Mapping the shared socio-economic pathways onto the Nature Futures Framework at the global scale. Sustainablity Science

Blair, K.J., Moran, D., Alexander, P., 2023. Worldviews, values and perspectives towards the future of the livestock sector. Agriculture and Human Values.

Perkins, O., Alexander, P., Arneth, A., Brown, C., Millington, J.D.A., Rounsevell, M., 2023. Toward quantification of the feasible potential of land-based carbon dioxide removal. One Earth 6, 1638–1651.

Woodman, T.L., Rueda-Uribe, C., Henry, R.C., Burslem, D.F.R.P., Travis, J.M.J., Alexander, P., 2023. Introducing LandScaleR: A novel method for spatial downscaling of land use projections. Environmental Modelling & Software 169, 105826.

Henry, R.C., Arneth, A., Jung, M., Rabin, S.S., Rounsevell, M.D., Warren, F., Alexander, P., 2022. Global and regional health and food security under strict conservation scenarios. Nature Sustainablity,

Maire, J., Sattar, A., Henry, R., Warren, F., Merkle, M., Rounsevell, M., Alexander, P., 2022. How different COVID-19 recovery paths affect human health environmental sustainability and food affordability. Lancet Planetary Health.

Maire, J., Alexander, P., Anthoni, P., Huntingford, C., Pugh, T.A.M., Rabin, S., Rounsevell, M., Arneth, A., 2022. A New Modelling Approach to Adaptation-Mitigation in the Land System. Springer International Publishing.

Sethi, A., Lin, C.Y., Madhavan, I., Davis, M., Alexander, P., Eddleston, M., 2022. Impact of regional bans of highly hazardous pesticides on agricultural yields : the case of Kerala. Agric. Food Secur. 1–13.

Merkle, M., Alexander, P., Brown, C., Seo, B., Harrison, P.A., Harmáčková, Z. V, Pedde, S., Rounsevell, M., Harrison, P.A., 2022. Downscaling population and urban land use for socio ‑ economic scenarios in the UK. Reg. Environ. Chang. 1–14.

Payen, F., Moran, D., Cahurel, J., Aitkenhead, M., Alexander, P., Macleod, M., 2022. Factors influencing winegrowers ’ adoption of soil organic carbon sequestration practices in France. Environ. Sci. Policy 128, 45–55.

Maire, J., Sattar, A., Henry, R., Warren, F., Merkle, M., Rounsevell, M., Alexander, P., 2021. How different COVID-19 recovery paths affect human health , environmental sustainability , and food affordability. Lancet Planet. Heal. In-review.

Merkle, M., Moran, D., Warren, F., Alexander, P., 2021. How does market power affect the resilience of food supply? Glob. Food Sec. 30, 100556.

Payen, F.T., Sykes, A., Aitkenhead, M., Alexander, P., Moran, D., MacLeod, M., 2021. Predicting the abatement rates of soil organic carbon sequestration management in Western European vineyards using random forest regression. Clean. Environ. Syst. 2, 100024.

Payen, F.T., Sykes, A., Aitkenhead, M., Alexander, P., Moran, D., MacLeod, M., 2021. Soil organic carbon sequestration rates in vineyard agroecosystems under different soil management practices: A meta-analysis. J. Clean. Prod. 290, 125736.

Hamilton, H., Henry, R., Rounsevell, M., Moran, D., Cossar, F., Allen, K., Boden, L., Alexander, P., 2020. Exploring global food system shocks, scenarios and outcomes. Futures 123.

Moran, D., Cossar, F., Merkle, M., Alexander, P., 2020. UK food system resilience tested by COVID-19. Nat. food 1, 242.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Brown, 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.

Fuchs, R., Alexander, P., Brown, C., Cossar, F., Henry, R., Rounsevell, M., 2019. US–China trade war imperils Amazon rainforest. Nature 567, 451–454.

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.

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.

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.

Alexander, P., Moran, D., 2017. Rethinking food waste for a healthier planet. Lancet Planet Heal. 1, e170–e171.

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.


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