2014 - present. Director of Institute of Biological and Environmental Sciences (IBES), University of Aberdeen.
2003 - 2014. NERC Advanced Fellow, Lecturer, Senior Lecturer, Reader, Professor, University of Aberdeen.
Ph.D. University of Sheffield 1998. Thesis title: Soil microbial biomass and activity and plant nutrition in semi-natural ecosystems subjected to pollutant nitrogen deposiiton. Supervised by JR Leake and JA Lee
M.Sc. Soil Science. University of Aberdeen 1994. Thesis title: Effect of heavy-metal contaminated sewage sludge on C and N mineralisation in a coniferous forest soil. Prize for best thesis.
B.Sc. (Hons.) Environmental technology. University of Sunderland 1993. Thesis title: Soil ingestion and its contribution to radionuclide intakes by sheep grazing under differing husbandry practices. See Green et al 1996 Journal of Environmental Radioactivity.
My research group (see below for a list of happy, curious (as in eager!) and talented people) have diverse interests covering the following exciting areas of science:
These interests are addressed, sometimes using sophisticated techniques such as stable and radioisotope tracers, in a range of ecosystems including native Scots pine woodland, tropical forests, species-rich semi-natural limestone grassland, peatlands, montane heaths and cropped systems. Our approaches are applied at scales from whole ecosystem (NERC BALI project) to whole organism. Funding is mainly from NERC and BBSRC.
Current postdoctoral research fellows:
Dr Mathilde Chomel, who is working on a NERC Soil Security consortium project investigating how soil food web structure controls the ability of soils and their functions, related to biogeochemical cycling and greenhouse gas production, to withstand, recover and potentially adapt to disturbance events.
Dr Ben Jackson, who works on the BBSRC Ecotraits project, and is testing how plant functional diversity in grassland affects ecosystem processes.
Dr Xubing Liu, who is working on a NERC Discovery grant with fieldwork based in Danum Valley to test how mycorrhizal fungi partition soil phosphorus in tropical forests.
Dr Jen Walker, who is working on a NERC Discovery grant and investigating the costs and benefits of evolving host specialisation in ectomycorrhizal fungi.
Current research technicians and support staff:
Dr Hedda Weitz, who manages our labs in Aberdeen.
Jaime Buckingham, who provides technical support for several projects
Dr Laura Kruitbos, who helps coordinate the BALI project.
Dr Ully Kritzler, who supports Sabine on the BALI project.
Nils Alvarez-Segura, who is supporting Mathilde.
Current research students:
The Biodiversity and Land-Use Impacts on Tropical Ecosystem Function (BALI) project team
Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment, University of Western Sydney
ECOS, at EPFL Lausanne
Nick Ostle, Lancaster University
Kirsty Park, Stirling University
Pieter van West, IMS, University of Aberdeen
“What makes a specialist special? The physiology of ecological specialization in plant-fungal mutualisms”. May 2015-2018. NERC Standard. £630k. PI: D Johnson. NE/M015653/1.
“Controls on the stability of soils and their functioning under land use and climate change” April 2015-2018. NERC/BBSRC Soil Security. £1.629M. PI: R Bardgett; PI: Aberdeen component: D Johnson. CoI: Mark Emmerson, Liz Baggs, Franciska De Vries, Tancredi Caruso. NE/M017028/1.
“Explaining niche separation in tropical forests: feedbacks between root-fungal symbioses and soil phosphorus partitioning”. NERC Standard. £1.12M (£662754 to Aberdeen); PI: D Burslem, Co-I: D. Johnson, A Taylor and T Helgason (York).
“A rhizotrait framework for the northern and southern hemispheres” BBSRC International Partnering Award (2014-2018).Value: £30561. PI: EM Baggs, CoI: D Johnson. BB/L026759/1.
“Biodiversity and land-use impacts on tropical ecosystem function (BALI)”. NERC Human Modified Tropical Forests programme. ~£4.4M consortium led by Dr Yit Arn-Teh; PI for Aberdeen component (£888,892): D Johnson. The Aberdeen component funds 5 years of PDRA time and 3 years of technician time. NE/K016253/1.
"The importance of intra- and interspecific diversity of ectomycorrhizal fungi on ecosystem functioning" October 2011-Sept 2014. NERC Standard. Value £516,797. NE/I014527/1.
"Contribution of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi to carbon fluxes in grassland in response to climate manipulation" May 2011-October 2011. NERC Small. Value £64,928. NE/I017097/1.
"Linkages between plant functional diversity, soil biological communities and ecosystem services in agricultural grassland" June 2011-May 2016. BBSRC Responsive. Value: ~£1.5M (Aberdeen £353,238). PI: Prof RD Bardgett.
"Contribution of plant intraspecific diversity to carbon turnover in grassland" May 2010-January 2011. NERC Small Grant. Value: £51,426. NE/H010939/1.
"How do interactions between herbivores and mycorrhizal fungi regulate production of plant signalling compounds and parasitoid behaviour?" October 2009-March 2013. NERC Open CASE. Value £65,937. NE/G012008/1.
"Unravelling the functional diversity of fungi in ericaceous hair roots" NERC Small Grant (with Prof IJ Alexander). July 2009-October 2010. Value: £53,059. NE/G010404/1.
"The significance of ericoid mycorrhizal mycelium for carbon turnover in heathland" October 2008-March 2012. NERC Open CASE. Value £67,173. NE/F013760/1.
"Can plant genotypic diversity select for mycorrhizal fungal diversity in grasslands?" Royal Society. June 2006-May 2007. Value: £7700.
"Mycorrhizal interactions in native pinewoods: are ericoid and ectomycorrhizal fungi genetically and functionally distinct?" October 2004-October 2009. NERC Standard (with Prof IJ Alexander) Value: £291,966. NE/C003128/1.
"Influence of soil mesofaunal communities on carbon flux to ectomycorrhizal fungi and saprotrophic microorganisms" September 2004-September 2006. Funding: NERC. Value: £50,483. NE/C507510/1
NERC Advanced Fellowship. "Does below ground carbon allocation drive soil biodiversity in Boreal forests?" Sept. 2003-Sept 2008. Value: £243,604. NER/J/S/2002/00652
Coordinator for PL5504 Biology and Ecology of Mycorrhizas and EK5502 Advanced Ecological Concepts.
Contribute to BI5009 Experimental Design and Analysis, EV5303 Environmental Microbiology and Biotechnology and PL3303/PL5303 Ecosystem Processes.
Biology for Undergraduates; PL3303/5503 Ecosystem Processes; BI20PI Plant Diversity; BI25P2 Biological Topics in Plant and Soil Science.
I am always keen to supervise BSc Hons and MSc research projects, and some of these have led to publications. Past projects have included:
Testing how genotypic diversity in grasses affects ecosystem processes (Eamon Haughey)
Investigating the impact of nitrogen deposition on peatlands (Sam Green, Lucy Moore)
Whether mycorrhizal fungi affect plant-aphid interactions (Kate Randall)
Movement of nutrients from sea to land by great skua on Shetland (Ben Leonard, Chris Dosser)
Full member NERC Peer Review College (2008-).
Board of Advisors, New Phytologist.
Associate Editor for Ecology and Evolution
NERC Tropical Forests working Group
Natural Environment’ grants panel member for the Swedish Research Council FORMAS
Director, Institute of Biological and Environmental Sciences
Babikova Z, Gilbert L, Bruce TJA, Birkett M, Caulfield JC, Woodcock C, Pickett JA, Johnson D. (2013)Underground signals carried through common mycelial networks warn neighbouring plants of aphid attack. Ecology Letters 16, 835-843. This paper shows that chemical signals produced in response to aphid attack by bean plants can be transmitted below ground via common mycelial networks to neighbouring uninfested plants, enabling them to produce chemicals that repel aphids and attract parasitoid wasps, which kill aphids. This finding means we must now redefine our understanding of how multi-trophic interactions are regulated in ecosystems, and recognise the crucial role played by common mycorrhizal fungal networks. The work was highlighted by >30 national and international media outlets and lay-publications (e.g. BBC Online, The Scientist, BBC Radio Scotland, The Economist, Science, Bionieuws, Kew Magazine, BBSRC Business). The paper was recommended for Faculty1000Prime, the directory of top biology articles, and is identified as being ‘highly cited’ in Essential Science Indicators. ESI Highly Cited Papers list the top cited papers over the last 10 years across 22 scientific disciplines.
Former postdoctoral research fellows:
Dr Gwen Grelet, Landcare Research, NZ
Dr Rob Mills, Lancaster University
Dr Marta Dondini, University of Aberdeen