School of Earth and Environment

Peter Steward Peter Steward

Research Fellow

Email address:
Room: 9.118

Affiliation: Sustainability Research Institute


I am ecologist who has worked for statutory bodies, research organisations, consultancies and as an academic, with extensive field experience from sub-Saharan Africa and the UK.

As a postdoctoral research fellow for the SRI's conservation agriculture (CA) group I am using meta-analysis and field studies to explore the resilience of conservation agriculture to climate stress in the sub-tropics with a focus on sub-Saharan Africa. This research will provide the data needed by a range of stakeholders to make rational evidenced based decisions regarding the effectiveness and implementation of CA as a form Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA). I am also also exploring the effect of long-term soil management on soil macro invertebrates at the SRI's Chitedze CA trial in Malawi using a range of traditional and novel entomological sampling methods. In an exciting collaboration with Thorunn Helgasson (York and White Rose Sustainable Agriculture Consortium) we are using cutting edge next generation DNA sequencing to explore the effects of soil management on maize root fungal communities to being address the substantial research gaps that exist for SSA.

There are always great opportunities for BSc or MSc student projects and internships, get in touch if you are interested!

My PhD considered how compositional landscape change in a protected area buffer zone influenced ecosystem services in subsistence smallholder areas in Taita, Kenya. It considered the numeric and functional response of pollinators, pest and natural enemies to farmland expansion at field and landscape scales, and explored how landscape composition at different spatial scales influenced farmers' attitudes towards conservation and biodiversity and their perceptions of human wildlife conflict.


2010-2014 PhD (Ecology) - Ecology and Evolution Group, School of Biology, University of Leeds (supervised by Prof. Tim Benton and Dr Steve Sait). Funded through the BBSRC Open Competition. 'Ecosystem services and disservice in tropical small-scale agriculture'

2009-2010 MSc (Applied Ecology and Conservation) - University of East Anglia

2002-2005 BSc Honours (Ecology)- University of East Anglia

Research Interests

My general research interests relate to agricultural ecology and conservation ecology in the sphere of creating and utilising evidence needed for sustainable farming landscapes at multiple spatial and temporal scales.

Spatial and landscape ecology - the effects of compositional and configurational landscape change at multiple scales and grains on ecosystem services/disservices and species/communities of conservation importance. In particular for the dynamic interface of smallholder agriculture and wilderness/protected areas. How can we conserve biodiversity or ecosystem services and develop/intensify agro-ecological systems to meet the demands of a rising human population in a changing climate?

Functional ecology - integrating complex multidimensional species community and environmental data to illustrate change the functional intensity, identity and diversity of species communities across gradients of agro-ecological landscape or land management development. How are agro-ecosystem functions affected by climate-change, development and/or agricultural intensification? what farm system transitions conserve or enhance particular functions? how resilient are agro-ecosystem functions to climate shocks?

Meta-analysis - compiling large empirical agricultural datasets in combination with geo-spatial soil and historical climate datasets (such as TRMM, AgMERRA, SoilGrids and GSOD) for use in meta-regression to explore the climate stress resilience of sustainable agricultural practices and their interaction with contextual variables.


DOUGILL, A. J., WHITFIELD, S., STRINGER, L. C., VINCENT, K., WOOD, B. T., CHINSEU, E. L., STEWARD, P. & MKWAMBISI, D. D. Mainstreaming conservation agriculture in Malawi: Knowledge gaps and institutional barriers. Journal of Environmental Management.

STEWARD, P. R., SHACKELFORD, G., CARVALHEIRO, L. G., BENTON, T. G., GARIBALDI, L. A. & SAIT, S. M. 2014. Pollination and biological control research: are we neglecting two billion smallholders. Agriculture & Food Security, 3, 5.

SHACKELFORD, G., STEWARD, P. R., BENTON, T. G., KUNIN, W. E., POTTS, S. G., BIESMEIJER, J. C. & SAIT, S. M. 2013. Comparison of pollinators and natural enemies: a meta-analysis of landscape and local effects on abundance and richness in crops. Biological Reviews, 88, 1002-1021.

GORM E. SHACKELFORD, PETER R. STEWARD , RICHARD N. GERMAN, STEVEN M. SAIT & BENTON, T. G. 2014. Conservation planning in agricultural landscapes: hotspots of conflict between agriculture and nature. Diversity and Distributions, 21 (3), 357-367.