Professor Ben Smith (Director of Research)

Prof Smith Professor Ben Smith is the Director of Research within the Institute, responsible for the strategic delivery and execution of the Institute's research strategies.

Professor Ben Smith is an ecologist and ecosystem modeller interested in the role of population and community processes in the structural and functional dynamics of the world’s major ecosystem types, or biomes. He has developed widely-used tools for exploring responses of vegetation and ecosystems to drivers such as climate change, rising CO2 concentrations  and land use. He is interested in the role of the biosphere in regional and global climate dynamics, using Earth system models to examine biogeochemical and biophysical feedbacks of ecosystem change to the atmosphere.

Prof Smith retains a part-time affiliation with the Dept of Physical Geography and Ecosystem Science, Lund University, Sweden.

Areas of research/teaching expertise

Process-based vegetation and biogeochemical modelling; Earth (climate) system modelling; climate change impacts on ecosystems; biosphere-atmosphere feedbacks; carbon-nitrogen interactions; forest, savannah and treeline dynamics; land use/management modelling; model-data synthesis.

Awards and recognition

  • Special Research Fellowship, Swedish Research Council for Environment, Agricultural Sciences and Spatial Planning, 2003-07
  • Fellow of the Royal Physiographic Society of Lund, Elected 2014
  • Distinguished Visiting Scientist, CSIRO, 2014, 2017
  • Founding Member, Baltic Earth network, 2014-18
  • Head of Department of Physical Geography and Ecosystem Science, Lund University, Sweden, 2018.


All current grants are under Prof Smith’s ongoing affiliation with Lund University, Sweden.

Title: Coordinated Research in Earth Systems and Climate: Experiments, Knowledge, Dissemination and Outreach (CRESCENDO)
Partners: Lead Colin Jones, University of Reading; many partners across Europe.
Years: 2015-20
Funding: European Union Horizon 2020

Title: Forest Restoration and Water Use for Smart Agriculture – A Case Study of Cambodia (FRAWASA)
Co-partners: Royal University of Agriculture, Cambodia; Asian Institute of Technology, Thailand.
Years: 2017-20
Funding: Swedish Research Council

Title: Forests and Extreme Weather Events: Solutions for Risk-Resilient Management in a Changing Climate (FOREXCLIM)
Partners: Lead Anja Rammig, Technical University of Munich; two other European partners.
Years: 2017-19
Funding: European Research Area Network SUMFOREST

Title: Land Use, Carbon Sinks and Negative Emissions for Climate Goals
Co-partner: Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute.
Years: 2017-20
Funding: Swedish Research Council FORMAS

Title: Quantification of the biogeophysical and biogeochemical forcings from anthropogenic deforestation on regional Holocene climate in Europe
Partners: Lead Marie-José Gaillard, Linnaeus University, Sweden; several Swedish partners.
Years: 2017-20
Funding: Swedish Research Council.

Selected Publications

Fisher R, Koven CD, Anderegg WRL, Christoffersen BO, Dietze MC, Farrior C, Holm JA, Hurtt G, Knox RG, Lawrence PJ, Longo M, Matheny AM, Medvigy D, Muller-Landau HC, Powell TL, Serbin SP, Sato H, Shuman J, Smith B, Trugman AT, Viskari T, Verbeeck H, Weng E, Xu C, Xu X, Zhang T, Moorcroft P, (2018) 'Vegetation demographics in Earth system models: a review of progress and priorities', Global Change Biology, vol.24, pp 35-54

Haverd V, Smith B, Nieradzik L, Briggs PR, Woodgate W, Trudinger CM, Canadell JG, Cuntz M, (2018) 'A new version of the CABLE land surface model (Subversion revision r4601) incorporating land use and land cover change, woody vegetation demography, and a novel optimisation-based approach to plant coordination of photosynthesis', Geoscientific Model Development, vol.11, pp 2995-3026

Lusk CH, Clearwater MJ, Laughlin DC, Harrison SP, Prentice IC, Nordenstahl M, Smith B, (2018) 'Frost and leaf-size gradients in forests: global patterns and experimental evidence', New Phytologist, vol.219, pp 565-573

Zhang W, Miller PA, Jansson C, Samuelsson P, Mao J, Smith B, (2018) 'Self-amplifying feedbacks accelerate greening and warming of the Arctic', Geophysical Research Letters, vol.45, pp 7102-7111

Engström K, Lindeskog M, Olin S, Hassler J, Smith B, (2017) 'Impacts of climate mitigation strategies in the energy sector on global land use and carbon balance', Earth System Dynamics, vol.8, pp 773-799

Haverd V, Ahlström A, Smith B, Canadell JG, (2017) 'Carbon cycle responses of semi-arid ecosystems to positive asymmetry in rainfall', Global Change Biology, vol.23, pp 793-800

Medlyn BE, De Kauwe MG, Zaehle S, Walker AP, Duursma RA, Luus K, Mishurov M, Pak B, Smith B, Wang Y-P, Yang X, Crous KY, Drake JE, Gimeno TE, Macdonald CA, Norby RJ, Power SA, Tjoelker MG, Ellsworth DS, (2016) 'Using models to guide field experiments: a priori predictions for the CO2 response of a nutrient- and water-limited native Eucalypt woodland', Global Change Biology, vol.22, pp 2834-2851

Norby RJ, De Kauwe MG, Domingues TF, Duursma RA, Ellsworth DS, Goll DS, Lapola DM, Luus KA, MacKenzie AR, Medlyn BE, Pavlick R, Rammig A, Smith B, Thomas R, Thonicke K, Walker AP, Yang X, Zaehle S, (2016) 'Model–data synthesis for the next generation of forest free-air CO2 enrichment (FACE) experiments', New Phytologist, vol.209, pp 17–28

Pugh TAM, Müller C, Arneth A, Haverd V, Smith B, (2016) 'Key knowledge and data gaps in modelling the influence of CO2 concentration on the terrestrial carbon sink', Journal of Plant Physiology, vol.203, pp 3-15

Wu M, Schurgers G, Rummukainen M, Smith B, Samuelsson P, Jansson C, Siltberg J, May W, (2016) 'Vegetation-climate feedbacks modulate rainfall patterns in Africa under future climate change', Earth System Dynamics, vol.7, pp 627-647

Ahlström A, Raupach MR, Schurgers G, Smith B, Arneth A, Jung M, Reichstein M, Canadell JP, Friedlingstein P, Jain AK, Kato E, Poulter B, Sitch S, Stocker BD, Viovy N, Wang Y-P, Wiltshire A, Zaehle S, Zeng N, (2015) 'The dominant role of semi-arid ecosystems in the trend and variability of the land CO2 sink', Science, vol.348, pp 895-899

Ahlström A, Xia J, Arneth A, Luo Y, Smith B, (2015) 'Importance of vegetation dynamics for future terrestrial carbon cycling', Environmental Research Letters, vol.10, 054019

Jönsson AM, Lagergren F, Smith B, (2015) 'Forest management facing climate change—an ecosystem model analysis of adaptation strategies',  Mitigation & Adaptation Strategies for Global Change, vol.20, pp 201-220

Smith B, Wårlind D, Arneth A, Hickler T, Leadley P, Siltberg J, Zaehle S, (2014) 'Implications of incorporating N cycling and N limitations on primary production in an individual-based dynamic vegetation model', Biogeosciences, vol.11, pp 2027-2054

Haverd V, Smith B, Cook GD, Briggs PR, Nieradzik L, Roxburgh SR, Liedloff A, Meyer CP, Canadell JG, (2013) 'A stand-alone tree demography and landscape structure module for Earth system models', Geophysical Research Letters, vol.40, 5234-5239

Lindeskog M, Arneth A, Bondeau A, Waha K, Seaquist J, Olin S, Smith B, (2013) 'Implications of accounting for land use in simulations of ecosystem services and carbon cycling in Africa', Earth System Dynamics, vol.4, pp 385-407

Ahlström A, Schurgers G, Arneth A, Smith B, (2012) 'Robustness and uncertainty in terrestrial ecosystem carbon response to CMIP5 climate change projections', Environmental Research Letters, vol.7, 044008

Jönsson AM, Schroeder LM, Lagergren F, Anderbrandt O, Smith B, (2012) 'Guess the impact of Ips typographus—An ecosystem modelling approach for simulating bark beetle outbreaks', Agricultural & Forest Meteorology, vol.s 166-167, pp 188-200

Smith B, Samuelsson P, Wramneby A, Rummukainen M, (2011) 'A model of the coupled dynamics of climate, vegetation and terrestrial ecosystem biogeochemistry for regional applications', Tellus Series A, vol.63, pp 87-106

Hickler T, Smith B, Prentice IC, Mjöfors K, Miller P, Arneth A, Sykes MT, (2008) 'CO2 fertilization in temperate forest FACE experiments not representative of boreal and tropical forests', Global Change Biology, vol.14, pp 1-12

Smith B, Aasa A, Ahas R, Blenckner T, Callaghan T, de Chazal J, Humborg C, Jönsson AM, Kellomäki S, Kull A, Lehikoinen E, Mander Ü, Nõges P, Nõges T, Rounsevell M, Sofiev M, Tryjanowski P, Wolf A, (2008) 'Climate-related change in terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems', In: BACC Author Team, Assessment of Climate Change for the Baltic Sea Basin. Springer-Verlag, Berlin, pp 221-308

Smith B, Knorr W, Widlowski J-L, Pinty B, Gobron N, (2008) 'Combining remote sensing data with process modelling to monitor boreal conifer forest carbon balances', Forest Ecology & Management, no.255, pp 3985-3994

Bondeau A, Smith PC, Zaehle S, Schaphoff S, Lucht W, Cramer W, Gerten D, Lotze-Campen H, Müller C, Reichstein M, Smith B, (2007) 'Modelling the role of agriculture for the 20th century global terrestrial carbon balance', Global Change Biology, vol.13, pp 679-706

Prentice IC, Bondeau A, Cramer W, Harrison SP, Hickler T, Lucht W, Sitch S, Smith B, Sykes MT, (2007) 'Dynamic global vegetation modelling: quantifying terrestrial ecosystem responses to large-scale environmental change', In: Canadell, J.G., Pataki, D.E. & Pitelka, L.F. (eds) Terrestrial Ecosystems in a Changing World. Springer Verlag, Berlin, pp 175-192

Koca D, Smith B, Sykes MT, (2006) 'Modelling regional climate change effects on potential natural ecosystems in Sweden', Climatic Change, vol.78, pp 381-406

Zaehle S, Sitch S, Smith B, Hatterman F, (2005) 'Effects of parameter uncertainties on the modeling of terrestrial biosphere dynamics', Global Biogeochemical Cycles, vol.19, p 3020

Hickler T, Smith B, Sykes MT, Davis MB, Sugita S, Walker K, (2004) 'Using a generalized vegetation model to simulate vegetation dynamics in the western Great Lakes region, USA, under alternative disturbance regimes', Ecology, vol.85, pp 519-530

Sitch S, Smith B, Prentice IC, Arneth A, Bondeau A, Cramer W, Kaplan J, Levis S, Lucht W, Sykes M, Thonicke K, Venevsky S, (2003) 'Evaluation of ecosystem dynamics, plant geography and terrestrial carbon cycling in the LPJ Dynamic Global Vegetation Model', Global Change Biology, vol.9, pp 161-185

Lucht W, Prentice IC, Myneni RB, Sitch S, Friedlingstein P, Cramer W, Bousquet P, Buermann W, Smith B, (2002) 'Climatic control of the high-latitude vegetation greening trend and Pinatubo effect', Science, vol.296, pp 1687-1689

Cramer W, Bondeau A, Woodward FI, Prentice IC, Betts RA, Brovkin V, Cox PM, Fisher V, Foley JA, Friend AD, Kucharik C, Lomas MR, Ramankutty N, Sitch S, Smith B, White A, Young-Molling C, (2001) 'Global response of terrestrial ecosystem structure and function to CO2 and climate change: results from six dynamic global vegetation models', Global Change Biology, vol.7, pp 357-373

Smith B, Prentice IC, Sykes MT, (2001) 'Representation of vegetation dynamics in the modelling of terrestrial ecosystems: comparing two contrasting approaches within European climate space', Global Ecology & Biogeography, vol.10, pp 621-637

Drobner U, Bibby J, Smith B, Wilson JB, (1998) 'The relation between community biomass and evenness: what does community theory predict, and can these predictions be tested?', Oikos, vol.82, pp 295-302

Lusk CH, Smith B, (1998) 'Mechanisms of tree species coexistence in an old-growth New Zealand rain forest', Ecology, vol.79, pp 795-806

Smith B, Wilson JB, (1996) 'A consumer's guide to evenness indices', Oikos, vol.76, pp 70-82

Smith B, Mark AF, Wilson JB, (1995) 'A functional analysis of New Zealand alpine vegetation: variation in canopy roughness and functional diversity in response to an experimental wind barrier', Functional Ecology, vol.9, pp 904-912