People > Professor Steve Widdicombe

Professor Steve Widdicombe

Director of Science

Contact Details

+44 (0)1752 633100 (switchboard)


As a marine ecologist with nearly 30 years of experience, Steve is an expert in using field observations and large manipulative experiments to address issues relating to benthic ecology, biodiversity and ecosystem function. In particular he is interested in quantifying the effects of natural and anthropogenic disturbance on the structure, diversity and function of marine benthic communities.

He has played key roles in several national and European funded projects exploring the impact of environmental impact and change on marine ecosystems and biogeochemical cycling. Steve started his research career looking at the impacts of natural disturbance (bioturbation) on marine biodiversity and community structure, and has continued this research theme ever since. In addition, much of his recent research has concentrated on the impacts of climate change on benthic organisms and ecosystems.

He has been a principal investigator in a number of large NERC programmes including Shelf Seas Biogeochemistry, Arctic Change and Marine Ecosystems, and led a large consortium within the NERC UK Ocean Acidification Programme.

Steve has an active interest in monitoring the marine environment and established the North East Atlantic regional hub of the Global Ocean Acidification Observing Network (GOA-ON). In 2014 he was awarded a visiting Professorship in Marine Ecology by the University of Plymouth, in recognition of his contribution to Climate Change research as well as MSc and PhD student supervision.
He has published 150+ peer reviewed papers and book chapters, and has an H-index of 43 (WoS).



Portugal Twinning for Innovation and Excellence in Marine Science and Earth Observation (PORTWIMS)

Contact: Steve Groom

Through innovation, collaboration and capacity building, PORTWIMS aims to enhance the science, technology and profile of marine science at the...


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...

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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

  • Instrument and Data Technician 

    £23,630 per annum 

    Full Time - 3 year Fixed Term Appointment 

    Do you have a background in building/developing scientific instrument systems and providing specialist technical support? Do you want to further your career in one of the UK’s leading marine research laboratories, making crucial steps to understanding how the oceans and marine atmosphere influence air pollution and climate?

    Plymouth Marine Laboratory has a strong track record in world leading Air-Sea Exchange (ASE) research. In recent years, the ASE group has had considerable success establishing a coastal atmospheric research station at Penlee Point ( and developing the capability to make autonomous direct measurements of air/sea CO2 exchange from ships (e.g. We require a Junior Technologist to help us to build upon these successes.

    As a key member of the ASE team your role will be to maintain and improve remote instrumentation at Penlee and on ships fitted with air/sea flux systems. You will drive forward the automation of remote instrumentation and develop novel methods of data acquisition and delivery using embedded PC technologies (e.g. Raspberry PI) and Python scripting. You will be responsible for data processing and quality control and will contribute to scientific interpretation and research outputs. You will be jointly responsible for the day-to-day running of the ASE laboratory and Penlee facility.

    This post is available immediately and for a fixed term of three years. To explore the post further or for any queries you may have, please contact the air/sea exchange group lead (Dr Tom Bell) via 

    For this role we are open to discuss the possibility of reduced hours, flexible working or possible job share.

    Please see the link for our  Employee Benefits

    Closing date: 5pm on Tuesday 10th December 2019

    Interviews will take place on Tuesday 4th February 2020

    View publication

View more publications

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.