Emma Sayer

Professor (Terrestrial ecology)

Ulm, Germany and Lancaster, UK

I'm an ecosystem ecologist with an innate curiousity for how things work. My research focusses on determining how interactions between plants and soil affect ecosystem function, and how ecosystems respond to global changes. I’m happiest when working in forests but I also make the occasional foray into grasslands. I currently have research projects in the UK, Panama, and Germany and my group uses a wide range of tools borrowed from plant ecology and ecophysiology, biogeochemistry, microbial ecology, and sometimes even a bit of entomology or soil science. I'm also Senior Editor for Functional Ecology and I'm passionate about science communication and public engagement with research. Please see my uni webpage for more information:


  • Foliar phosphorus fractions reveal how tropical plants maintain photosynthetic rates despite low soil phosphorus availability
  • Deepened snow cover mitigates soil carbon loss from intensive land‐use in a semi‐arid temperate grassland
  • Contributions and future priorities for soil science: Comparing perspectives from scientists and stakeholders
  • Initial Soil Organic Matter Content Influences the Storage and Turnover of Litter, Root and Soil Carbon in Grasslands
  • Differential responses of forest strata species richness to paleoclimate and forest structure
  • On pedagogy of a Soil Science Centre for Doctoral Training
  • Micronutrients in Food Production: What Can We Learn from Natural Ecosystems?
  • Root exudation rate increases, and composition changes in a mature temperate forest under elevated carbon dioxide
  • Methane source-sink behaviour in upland trees spanning a global climate gradient
  • Distinct storage mechanisms of soil organic carbon in coniferous forest and evergreen broadleaf forest in tropical China
  • Adaptation to chronic drought modifies soil microbial community responses to phytohormones
  • Litter Traits of Native and Non-Native Tropical Trees Influence Soil Carbon Dynamics in Timber Plantations in Panama
  • The grassland carbon cycle: Mechanisms, responses to global changes, and potential contribution to carbon neutrality
  • Post-drought root exudation defines soil organic matter stability in a temperate mature forest
  • Grazing intensity alters the plant diversity–ecosystem carbon storage relationship in rangelands across topographic and climatic gradients
  • Spatial and temporal shifts in functional and taxonomic diversity of dung beetles in a human-modified tropical forest landscape
  • Nutrient addition enhances carbon sequestration in soil but not plant biomass in a coastal shelter plantation in South China
  • Linking land-use and land-cover transitions to their ecological impact in the Amazon
  • Carbon allocation to root exudates in a mature mixed F. sylvatica – P. abies forest under drought and one year after drought release.
  • Root soil Nitrogen acquisition by mature Oak trees exposed to elevated CO2: Nitrogen preference and uptake rate under a future climate
  • Litter Inputs, but Not Litter Diversity, Maintain Soil Processes in Degraded Tropical Forests—A Cross-Continental Comparison
  • Revisiting nutrient cycling by litterfall—Insights from 15 years of litter manipulation in old-growth lowland tropical forest
  • Soil microbial biomass and community responses to experimental precipitation change: A meta-analysis
  • Biodiversity in tropical plantations is influenced by surrounding native vegetation but not yield: A case study with dung beetles in Amazonia
  • Drying and rewetting conditions differentially affect the mineralization of fresh plant litter and extant soil organic matter
  • Spatial and temporal shifts in functional and taxonomic diversity of dung beetles in a human-modified tropical forest landscape
  • Altered litter inputs modify carbon and nitrogen storage in soil organic matter in a lowland tropical forest
  • Sustainable Management of Grassland Soils
  • Carbon allocation to root exudates is maintained in mature temperate tree species under drought
  • Experimental drought increased the forest’s belowground sink strength towards temporarily increased topsoil carbon stocks
  • Soil stoichiometry mediates links between tree functional diversity and soil microbial diversity in a temperate forest
  • Soil carbon storage is related to tree functional composition in naturally regenerating tropical forests
  • Seasonal Influence of Biodiversity on Soil Respiration in a Temperate Forest
  • Author Correction: Tropical forest soil carbon stocks do not increase despite 15 years of doubled litter inputs
  • Delayed wet season increases soil net N mineralization in a seasonally tropical forest
  • Enhanced abundance of generalist and litter saprotrophs explain increased tropical forest soil carbon with long‐term nitrogen deposition
  • Tree stem bases are sources of CH4 and N2O in a tropical forest on upland soil during the dry to wet season transition
  • Soils are a non-negligible source of NO in a UK suburban greenspace and SE Australian Eucalyptus forest
  • Tropical forest soil carbon stocks do not increase despite 15 years of doubled litter inputs
  • Responses of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi to long-term inorganic and organic nutrient addition in a lowland tropical forest
  • The anatomy of an excellent review paper
  • The essentials of effective scientific writing – A revised alternative guide for authors
  • Deepened winter snow cover enhances net ecosystem exchange and stabilizes plant community composition and productivity in a temperate grassland
  • The diversity of decay
  • Fine root exudation rate increases in drier soils, but tree level carbon exudation does not change under drought in mature Fagus sylvatica - Picea abies trees
  • Aboveground litter inputs determine carbon storage across soil profiles
  • Sustainable management of grassland soils
  • High foliar K and P resorption efficiencies in old-growth tropical forests growing on nutrient-poor soils.
  • Functional redundancy of Amazonian dung beetles confers community-level resistance to primary forest disturbance
  • Long-term fertilization modifies the mineralization of soil organic matter in response to added substrate
  • The Automated Root Exudate System (ARES): a method to apply solutes at regular intervals to soils in the field.
  • The role of tree size in the leafing phenology of a seasonally dry tropical forest in Belize, Central America
  • Effects of litter manipulation on early-stage decomposition and meso-arthropod abundance in a tropical moist forest
  • Increased litterfall changes fine root distribution in a moist tropical forest
  • Using experimental manipulation to assess the roles of leaf litter in the functioning of forest ecosystems
  • Increased litterfall in tropical forests boosts the transfer of soil CO2 to the atmosphere
  • Grassland management influences spatial patterns of soil microbial communities
  • Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal community composition is altered by long-term litter removal but not litter addition in a lowland tropical forest
  • The Functional Ecology Short Guide to Scientific Writing
  • Arthropod Abundance and Diversity in a Lowland Tropical Forest Floor in Panama: The Role of Habitat Space vs. Nutrient Concentrations
  • A new approach to trenching experiments for measuring root-rhizosphere respiration in a lowland tropical forest
  • Sex & Bugs & Rock 'n Roll: Getting creative about public engagement
  • Nutrient limitation of woody debris decomposition in a tropical forest: contrasting effects of N and P addition
  • Short- and long-term influence of litter quality and quantity on simulated heterotrophic soil respiration in a lowland tropical forest
  • Soil carbon release enhanced by increased tropical forest litterfall
  • Potassium, phosphorus, or nitrogen limit root allocation, tree growth, or litter production in a lowland tropical forest
  • Litter manipulation and the soil arthropod community in a lowland tropical rainforest
  • Experimental investigation of the importance of litterfall in lowland semi-evergreen tropical forest nutrient cycling
  • Variable Responses of Lowland Tropical Forest Nutrient Status to Fertilization and Litter Manipulation
  • Distinct responses of soil respiration to experimental litter manipulation in temperate woodland and tropical forest
  • Tree functional diversity affects litter decomposition and arthropod community composition in a tropical forest
  • Leaf-cutting ants as ecosystem engineers: topsoil and litter perturbations aroundAtta cephalotesnests reduce nutrient availability
  • Links between soil microbial communities and plant traits in a species‐rich grassland under long‐term climate change
  • Tropical forest restoration: Fast resilience of plant biomass contrasts with slow recovery of stable soil C stocks
  • Decomposition of coarse woody debris in a long‐term litter manipulation experiment: A focus on nutrient availability
  • Tree communities rapidly alter soil microbial resistance and resilience to drought
  • Dung beetle community dynamics in undisturbed tropical forests
  • The forest for the trees
  • Variability of above-ground litter inputs alters soil physicochemical and biological processes
  • The functional ecology short guide to scientific writing
  • Demonstrating a significant advance to the field: An essential criterion for publication in Functional Ecology
  • Tropical forest above‐ground productivity is maintained by nutrients cycled in litter

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