Peter Steward

Postdoctoral Research Fellow, University of Leeds

Peter Steward

Peter is an ecologist who has worked for statutory bodies, research organisations and consultancies, and as an academic. He has extensive experience of work in sub-Saharan Africa and the UK.

As a postdoctoral research fellow for the SRI’s conservation agriculture (CA) group, he is 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).

Peter is 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) Peter is using cutting edge, next-generation DNA sequencing to explore the effects of soil management on maize root fungal communities to address the substantial research gaps that exist for SSA.

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

Peter’s 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.


Research Interests

Peter’s general research interests relate to agricultural ecology and conservation ecology to generate the evidence needed for sustainable farming landscapes at multiple spatial and temporal scales and for a range of end users.


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.