People > Professor Steve Widdicombe

Professor Steve Widdicombe

Director of Science and Deputy Chief Executive

Contact Details

+44 (0)1752 633100 (switchboard)


Steve is a marine ecologist with over 30 years of experience in using field observations and large manipulative experiments to address issues relating to benthic ecology, biodiversity and ecosystem function. He has a particular interest in quantifying the effects of natural and anthropogenic disturbance on the structure, diversity and function of marine benthic communities.

He has participated in several national and European funded projects exploring the impact of environmental impact (demersal fishing) and change (climate) on benthic organisms and biogeochemical cycling. Steve started his research career looking at the impacts of natural disturbance (bioturbation) on marine biodiversity and community structure, and he has continued this research theme ever since. In addition, much of his recent research has concentrated on the impacts of human induced stressors, such as climate change, ocean acidification and artificial light, on marine organisms and ecosystems.

He has been a principal investigator in several 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 is the co-chair of the Global Ocean Acidification Observing Network (GOA-ON) Executive Council. For 10 years Steve was the PML Head of Science for Marine Ecology and Biodiversity, before becoming Director of Science in 2019.

Steve has published over 150 peer reviewed papers and book chapters, with an H-index of 49.


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...

Addressing Challenges of Coastal Communities through Ocean Research for Developing Economies (ACCORD)

Contact: Professor Steve Widdicombe

The coastal and marine environments of South East Asia and the Western Indian Ocean (the regional foci of ACCORD) are rich and diverse, possessing...

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Selected key publications

S Widdicombe, JI Spicer. 2008. Predicting the impact of ocean acidification on benthic biodiversity: What can animal physiology tell us? Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 366(1-2): 187-197. doi:10.1016/j.jembe.2008.07.024

HL Wood, JI Spicer, S Widdicombe. 2008. Ocean acidification may increase calcification rates, but at a cost. Proceeding of the Royal Society B - Biological Sciences 275(1644): 1767-1773. doi:10.1098/rspb.2008.0343

P Calosi, S Melatunan, LM Turner, Y Artioli, RL Davidson, JJ Byrne, MR Viant, S Widdicombe, SD Rundle. 2017. Regional adaptation defines sensitivity to future ocean acidification. Nature Communications 8: 13994. doi:10.1038/ncomms13994

CA Vargas, NA Lagos, MA Lardies, C Duarte, PH ManrĂ­quez, V Aguilera, BR Broitman, S Widdicombe, S Dupont. 2017. Species-specific responses to ocean acidification should account for local adaptation and adaptive plasticity. Nature Ecology and Evolution 1(4): UNSP 0084. doi:10.1038/s41559-017-0084

JM Sunday, KE Fabricius, KJ Kroeker, KM Anderson, NE Brown, JP Barry, SD Connell, S Dupont, B Gaylord, JM Hall-Spencer, T Klinger, M Milazzo, PL Munday, BD Russell, E Sanford, V Thiyagarajan, MLH Vaughan, S Widdicombe, CDG Harley. 2017. Ocean acidification can mediate biodiversity shifts by changing biogenic habitat. Nature Climate Change 7(1): 81. doi:10.1038/NCLIMATE3161

QT Zhang, RM Warwick, CL McNeill, CE Widdicombe, A Sheehan, S Widdicombe. 2015. An unusually large phytoplankton spring bloom drives rapid changes in benthic diversity and ecosystem function. Progress in Oceanography 137(SI): 533-545. doi:10.1016/j.pocean.2015.04.029

Other activities

  • Co-chair of the Global Ocean Acidification Observing Network (GOA-ON) Executive Council.
  • Member of the UK Marine Science Coordination Committee (MSCC) International Working Group (IWG).
  • Member of the University of Plymouth’s Marine Institute Strategy Board.
  • Marine Research Plymouth Executive Board.
  • Member of the OSPAR Ocean Acidification ICG
  • 5th ‘Life in a High CO2 World’ meeting International Steering Committee