People > Professor Steve Widdicombe

Professor Steve Widdicombe

Head of Science - Marine Ecology and Biodiversity

Contact Details

+44 (0)1752 633100 (switchboard)


Professor Steve Widdicombe leads the PML strategic science area Marine ecology and biodiversity. The research he oversees aims to develop novel approaches for measuring and describing biodiversity across a range of biological scales, investigate the relationships between biodiversity and the provision of key biogeochemical processes, and thus develop the understanding necessary to predict the impact of biodiversity change on the structure and function of marine ecosystems.

Steve is a marine ecologist with 25 years of experience in using field observations and manipulative experiments to address issues relating to benthic ecology, biodiversity and ecosystem function. He has a broad range of interests including bioturbation, microbial nutrient cycling, long-term patterns in benthic and pelagic communities and developing novel methods for observing and manipulating natural systems. He is particularly interested in quantifying the effects of disturbance on the structure, diversity and function of marine benthic organisms and communities. Much of his recent research has concentrated on the ecological impacts of increasing seawater CO2 levels, rising temperatures and expanding areas of hypoxia. Through this interest in CO2 research, Steve has developed an expertise in Ocean Acidification and in the potential biological impacts of leakage from CO2 Capture and Storage (CCS). 

He has published over 80 peer-reviewed papers and book chapters. 



The Changing Arctic Ocean Seafloor (ChAOS) - how changing sea ice conditions impact biological communities, biogeochemical processes and ecosystems

Contact: Professor Steve Widdicombe

The ChAOS project will focus on how climate change and diminishing sea ice affects impact biological communities, biogeochemical processes and...

GCRF Blue Communities

GCRF Blue Communities

Contact: Professor Melanie Austen

GCRF Blue Communities is a 4 year research capacity-building programme for marine planning in East and South-East (E/SE) Asia, funded by UK...

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Other key projects

Sub-seabed CO2 Storage: Impact on Marine Ecosystems (ECO2) (2011–2015) – EU FP7

Biogeochemistry, macronutrient and carbon cycling in the benthic layer (BMCC) (2014-2018) – NERC/Defra funded “Shelf Seas Biogeochemistry Programme”.

Recent publications

  • Talbot, SE; Widdicombe, S; Hauton, C; Bruggeman, J. 2018 Adapting the dynamic energy budget (DEB) approach to include non-continuous growth (moulting) and provide better predictions of biological performance in crustaceans. ICES Journal of Marine Science. 10.1093/icesjms/fsy164
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  • Yuan, X; McCoy, SJ; Du, Y; Widdicombe, S; Hall-Spencer, JM. 2018 Physiological and Behavioral Plasticity of the Sea Cucumber Holothuria forskali (Echinodermata, Holothuroidea) to Acidified Seawater. Frontiers in Physiology, 9. 10.3389/fphys.2018.01339
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  • Somerfield, PJ ; McClelland, IL; McNeill, CL; Bolam, SG; Widdicombe, S. 2018 Environmental and sediment conditions, infaunal benthic communities and biodiversity in the Celtic Sea. Continental Shelf Research. 10.1016/j.csr.2018.09.002
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  • Mayers, KMJ; Poulton, AJ; Daniels, CJ; Wells, SR; Woodward, EMS ; Tarran, GA; Widdicombe, S; Atkinson, A; Giering, SLC. 2018 Growth and mortality of coccolithophores during spring in a temperate Shelf Sea (Celtic Sea, April 2015). Progress in Oceanography. 10.1016/j.pocean.2018.02.024
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  • Calder-Potts, R; Spicer, JI; Calosi, P; Findlay, HS; Widdicombe, S. 2015 A mesocosm study investigating the effects of hypoxia and population density on respiration and reproductive biology in the brittlestar Amphiura filiformis. Marine Ecology Progress Series, 534. 135-147. 10.3354/meps11379
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  • Gaylord, B; Kroeker, KJ; Sunday, JM; Anderson, KM; Barry, JP; Brown, NE; Connell, SD; Dupont, Sam; Fabricius, KE; Hall-Spencer, JM; Klinger, T; Milazzo, M; Munday, PL; Russell, BD; Sanford, E; Schreiber, SJ; Thiyagarajan, V; Vaughan, MLH; Widdicombe, S; Harley, CDG. 2015 Ocean acidification through the lens of ecological theory. Ecology, 96 (1). 3-15. 10.1890/14-0802.1
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Selected key publications

S Widdicombe, CL McNeill, H Stahl, P Taylor, AM Queirós, J Nunes, K Tait (submitted) Impact of sub-seabed CO2 leakage on macrobenthic community structure and diversity. International Journal of Greenhouse Gas Control

Q Zhang, RM Warwick, CL McNeill, CE Widdicombe, A Sheehan, S Widdicombe (submitted) An unusually large phytoplankton spring bloom drives rapid changes in benthic diversity and ecosystem function. Progress in Oceanography

AM Queirós, JA Fernandes, S Faulwetter, J Nunes, SPS Rastrick, N Mieszkowska, Y Artioli, A Yool, P Calosi, C Arvanitidis, HS Findlay, M Barange, WWL Cheung, S Widdicombe (2014) Quantifying ecosystem-level consequences of ocean acidification and warming by scaling up individual level responses of a predator snail and its trophic interactions. Global Change Biology.

AM Queirós, S Birchenough, J Bremner, JA Godbold, RE Parker, A Romero-Ramirez, H Reiss, M Solan, PJ Somerfield, C Van Colen, G Van Hoey, S Widdicombe (2013) A bioturbation classification of European marine infaunal invertebrates. Ecology & Evolution, 3: 3958 – 3985.

S Widdicombe, JC Blackford & JI Spicer (2013) Assessing the environmental consequences of CO2 leakage from geological CCS: Generating evidence to support environmental risk assessment. Marine Pollution Bulletin 73: 399-401.

S  Widdicombe, A Beesley, JA Berge, SL Dashfield, CL McNeill, HR Needham & S Oxnevad (2013) Impact of elevated levels of CO2 on animal mediated ecosystem function: The modification of sediment nutrient fluxes by burrowing urchins. Marine Pollution Bulletin 73: 416-427.

N Christen, P Calosi, CL McNeill & S Widdicombe (2013) Structural and functional vulnerability to elevated pCO2 in marine benthic communities. Marine Biology 160: 2113-2128. 

BD Russell, CDG Harley, T Wernberg, N Mieszkowska, S Widdicombe, JM Hall-Spencer & SD Connell (2012) Predicting ecosystem shifts requires new approaches that integrate the effects of climate change across entire systems. Biology Letters 8: 164-166.

S Widdicombe, JI Spicer & V Kitidis (2011) Effects of ocean acidification on sediment fauna. In: Gattuso J-P & Hansson L (Eds.), Ocean Acidification, Oxford University Press. pp. 176-191.

HS Findlay, MT Burrows, MA Kendall, JI Spicer & S Widdicombe (2010) Can ocean acidification affect Semibalanus balanoides population dynamics at the southern range edge? Ecology 91: 2931–2940.

B. Laverock, CJ Smith, K Tait, AM Osborn, S Widdicombe & JA Gilbert (2010) Bioturbating shrimp alter the structure and diversity of bacterial communities in coastal marine sediments. The ISME Journal 4: 1531-1544.

S Widdicombe, SL Dashfield, CL McNeill, HR Needham, A Beesley, A McEvoy, S Øxnevad, KR Clarke & JA Berge (2009) Effects of CO2 induced seawater acidification on infaunal diversity and sediment nutrient fluxes. Marine Ecology Progress Series 379: 59-75.

S Widdicombe & JI Spicer (2008) Predicting the impact of ocean acidification on benthic biodiversity: What can physiology tell us? Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 366: 187-197.

S Widdicombe & MC Austen (2005) Setting diversity and community structure in subtidal sediments: the importance of biological disturbance. In: Kostka J, Haese R, Kristensen E (editors). Interactions between macro- and microorganisms in marine sediments. Coastal and Estuarine Studies: 60, American Geophysical Union, New York, p.217-231.

S Widdicombe, MC Austen, MA Kendall, F Olsgard, MT Schaanning, SL Dashfield & HR Needham (2004) The importance of bioturbators for diversity maintenance: The indirect effects of fishing disturbance. Marine Ecology Progress Series 275: 1-10.

S Widdicombe & MC Austen (2001) The interaction between physical disturbance and organic enrichment: An important element in structuring benthic communities. Limnology and Oceanography 46: 1720-1733.