Imperial College London

Professor Iain Colin Prentice

Faculty of Natural SciencesDepartment of Life Sciences (Silwood Park)

Chair in Biosphere and Climate Impacts



+44 (0)20 7594 2354c.prentice




1.1Centre for Population BiologySilwood Park





My research centres on understanding how plants react to and interact with changes in climate and other aspects of the physical environment. My strategy is to integrate process understanding in ecology and environmental physics with observations of all kinds, including atmospheric measurements and remote sensing, with a view to developing new theoretical and predictive frameworks. I engage in a variety of applications of this science including analysis of the impacts of contemporary climate change on ecosystems and ecosystem services, and of the various feedbacks between the biosphere and climate which have operated on long time scales and which are being activated today by global environmental change.

Recognizing that the development of so-called state-of-the-art models for large-scale processes in the terrestrial biosphere are foundering due to their ever-increasing complexity and lack of agreed theoretical foundations, my top research priority is now the development of a 'next generation' dynamic global vegetation model based on eco-evolutionary optimality principles. Optimality principles are the 'missing law' of biology for Earth System modelling. They have the potential to generate substantially simpler and more robust models that fully exploit the power of natural selection to eliminate suboptimal trait combinations, and the richness of relevant observational data that are now available to ecosystem scientists for the development and evaluation of theory and models.



  • Ph.D. in Botany, Cambridge University (1977)
  • B.A. in Natural Sciences, Cambridge University (1973)


  • AXA Professor of Biosphere and Climate Impacts, Imperial College London (2013-);
  • Professor, Concentration of Research Excellence in Ecology and Evolution, Macquarie University (2009-2016);
  • Professor of Biosphere-Climate Interactions, Imperial College London (2010-2013);
  • Professor of Earth System Science, University of Bristol, and NERC Research Programme Leader, Quantifying and Understanding the Earth System (2003-2010);
  • Founding Director, Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, Jena (1997-2003);
  • Professor of Plant Ecology, Lund University (1991-1998);
  • Assistant/Associate research professor, Ecological Botany, Uppsala University (1983-1991);
  • Visiting Scientist, Plant Ecology, Utrecht University, The Netherlands (1982-1983);
  • Research Fellow, Geography, University of Southampton (1980-1982);
  • Research Fellow, Plant Biology, University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne (1978-1980);
  • Research Fellow, Botany, University of Bergen, Norway (1977-1978).




Research Group


PhD Students

  • Ms Rebecca Thomas
  • Mr Xavier Gilbert
  • Mr Cesar Terrer Moreno
  • Ms Ning Dong – thesis examined, completion expected September 2016
  • Ms Siân Wlliams (main supervisor: Dr Helen Brindley, Physics)
  • Mr Dimitrios Kontopoulos (main supervisor: Dr Samraat Pawar)
  • Ms Anne Uilhoorn (University of Leiden; main supervisor Professor Peter Bodegom)
  • Ms Diana Askarizadeh (University of Tehran: main supervisor Professor Hossein Arzani)



  • Mr Atsawawaranunt Kamolphat
  • Mr Hamish Warren (main supervisor: Dr Heather Graven, Physics)

Selected Publications

Journal Articles

Prentice IC, Dong N, Gleason SM, et al., 2014, Balancing the costs of carbon gain and water transport: testing a new theoretical framework for plant functional ecology, Ecology Letters, Vol:17, ISSN:1461-023X, Pages:82-91

Stocker BD, Roth R, Joos F, et al., 2013, Multiple greenhouse-gas feedbacks from the land biosphere under future climate change scenarios, Nature Climate Change, Vol:3, ISSN:1758-678X, Pages:666-672

Mackey B, Prentice IC, Steffen W, et al., 2013, Untangling the confusion around land carbon science and climate change mitigation policy, Nature Climate Change, Vol:3, ISSN:1758-678X, Pages:552-557

Gallego-Sala AV, Prentice IC, 2013, Blanket peat biome endangered by climate change, Nature Climate Change, Vol:3, ISSN:1758-678X, Pages:152-155

Harrison SP, Morfopoulos C, Dani KGS, et al., 2013, Volatile isoprenoid emissions from plastid to planet, New Phytologist, Vol:197, ISSN:0028-646X, Pages:49-57

Xu-Ri, Prentice IC, Spahni R, et al., 2012, Modelling terrestrial nitrous oxide emissions and implications for climate feedback, New Phytologist, Vol:196, ISSN:1469-8137, Pages:472-488

Prentice IC, Kelley DI, Foster PN, et al., 2011, Modeling fire and the terrestrial carbon balance, Global Biogeochemical Cycles, Vol:25, ISSN:0886-6236

More Publications