Rosanne Broyd

Name: Rosanne Broyd

Project title: Snow cover regulation of alpine soil ecosystem carbon release

Where based: Lancaster University and James Hutton Institute (Aberdeen)

At undergraduate level, I studied Ecology at the University of Aberdeen with an exchange year at the University of Guelph, Ontario. I returned to Guelph and joined Dr Merritt Turetsky’s lab for my undergraduate thesis quantifying moss colonisation in boreal forests a decade following a severe fire season in interior Alaska. Over the course of my BSc I developed a strong interest in ecosystem ecology and responses of ecosystem function to disturbance, particularly in northern and alpine ecosystems. Before commencing my PhD, I assisted Dr Rob Mills in researching the responses of alpine systems to warming and freezing scenarios. I’m now working towards my doctorate and my research focuses on understanding the role of snow-cover on carbon cycling in alpine ecosystems.

Project description:
Alpine ecosystems are recognised as valuable environments for ecosystem service supply, including water regulation, support of biodiversity, and carbon storage. Alpine landscapes have varied topographies and microclimates creating a mix of habitats subject to differing snow cover regimes. Snow beds are found on sheltered slopes and are areas where snow accumulates and persists after snow melt on more exposed slopes due to climate and topography. Snow cover and topography are major controls of plant productivity, nutrient availability, and soil temperature and moisture in alpine habitats. Alpine ecosystems are particularly sensitive to climate change and are expected to respond quickly to warming. Land area covered by snow has decreased over recent decades, with further declines of up to 25% predicted in the northern hemisphere during this century. In Scotland snow cover duration has decreased by over 30% since the 1960s and winter snowfall is predicted to decline by 50%by the 2080s. Little is known about the basic attributes and functioning of alpine habitats or their response to climatic change, including the effects of reducing snow-cover. My research aims to improve understanding of carbon cycling and storage in relation to snow-cover duration, and the functional response of microbial communities to changes in snow cover regime.


Research updates:

Twitter: @rcbroyd

Mountain Systems Ecology research group website:


Supervisors: Dr Rob Mills and Prof Nick Ostle (Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster University), Dr Andrea Britton and Dr Andy Taylor (Ecological Sciences, The James Hutton Institute)