Area of investment and support

Area of investment and support: Biosphere evolution, transitions and resilience (BETR)

The aim of the BETR programme is to advance understanding of the evolution of the biosphere by integrating excellent palaeoscience (such as palaeontology, geochemistry, geochronology and phylogenomics) and cutting-edge modelling.

NERC has a budget of £4 million to fund UK-based researchers and NSFC has a matched budget to fund eligible Chinese-based researchers.
2016 to 2022
Partners involved:
Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC)

The scope and what we're doing

Studying the fossil record can provide insights into how the biosphere responds to change, including if there are traits whose loss can precipitate ecosystem collapse and whether there is a relationship between biodiversity and biosphere resilience. A better understanding of how ecosystems have responded to change in the past can therefore enable better predictions of how present day ecosystems will respond to future change.

To determine the rates and causes of change in the fossil record a diverse range of geological, biotic and geochemical data needs to be integrated. This integration is dependent on having tightly constrained ages for the datasets. The aim of the BETR programme is to support the interdisciplinary research needed to determine the rates and causes of change. This aim will be achieved by combining geochemical, geochronological and palaeontological data into a common geospatial framework which is integrated process-based models of evolutionary ecology coupled to biogeochemistry and climate.

The programme will address three key questions:

  • when and how were the stability/resilience regimes of the biosphere transformed?
  • do environmental or biotic drivers govern evolutionary change?
  • how have the coupled biogeochemical cycles changed through time?

To help build partnerships and facilitate collaboration, NERC and NSFC with support from UKRI China and the Chinese Academy of Sciences Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology held a joint workshop in May 2015 in Nanjing. The aim of the workshop was to discuss the key science challenges in this area and the outcome of the workshop has been used to shape the scope of the funding opportunity for research proposals.

While projects may tackle different issues, there will be potential benefits from close collaborations between different research projects.

Opportunities, support and resources available

Funding opportunities

Opportunities will be listed on the UKRI funding finder when available.

Past projects, outcomes and impact

Who to contact

Ask a question about the programme in the UK

Charlotte Hawkins, Programme Manager


Oliver Knevitt, Senior Programme Manager


Ask a question about the programme in China

Li Wencong

National Natural Science Foundation of China


Governance, management and panels

Programme coordination team

The programme coordination team manages the delivery of the programme, including knowledge exchange and data management activities.

Programme coordination team membership:

  • Professor Graham Shields-Zhou, University College London
  • Professor Paul Valdes, University of Bristol
  • Professor Paul Wignall, University of Leeds

Last updated: 14 August 2023

This is the website for UKRI: our seven research councils, Research England and Innovate UK. Let us know if you have feedback or would like to help improve our online products and services.