Photograph of Dr Richard Webster.Dr Richard Webster

Plant Biologist
PhD

Contact

Email: rcw@aber.ac.uk
Office: 036 William Davies Building, Gogerddan Campus, IBERS, Aberystwyth University, SY23 3EB
Phone: +44 (0)1970 823125

Research

My main research interest is the process of photosynthesis; how it works and interacts with the environment in response to stresses and how this process can be improved. I investigate how plants cope with changing environments, and how this affects their photosynthetic capability and what this means for their growth, development and yield. My work requires understanding the fundamentals of both the light and dark reactions of photosynthesis. Through quantifying photosynthetic electron transport, energy production, CO2 diffusion and assimilation, photorespiration, and other metabolic processes such as the translocation and storage of assimilates, to describe growth and to understand the reaction of the plant and its photosynthesis to the environment.

Biorenewable fuels, Photosynthesis and Global Change Biology
I am interested in the way in which terrestrial and aquatic plants photosynthesise, and how this complicated array of processes is influenced by climate change drivers such as increasing CO2 and tropospheric ozone concentrations, and changes to temperature and rainfall patterns.
Biorenewable fuels can be used to maximise our ability to utilise available natural resources to provide energy and compounds to replace those commonly produced from fossil fuel reserves.  This can be implemented in a manner that is conducive to habitat restoration/protection and has long term sustainability.

Photosynthesis:
Photosynthetic responses to environmental changes and stressors. Responses of terrestrial and aquatic (C3 and C4) photosynthetic organisms to elevated CO2, O3, cold and drought stresses. Much of my research has focussed on photosynthetic gas exchange, light harvesting, Calvin cycle enzyme activation states and kinetics.

Biorenewable fuels:
Development of energy crops as a means to mitigate climate change.  Applying phenotypic and physiological approaches to exploit genetic variation within Miscanthus to increase the genetic potential in terms of higher yields and qualities in diverse environments.

Macroalgae Biorenewables:
Certain native Macroalgae species can grow up to 4m long and contain up to 55% (d.w.) carbohydrates.  These carbohydrates (mostly manitol and laminarin) can be hydrolysed to fructose and glucose, and subsequently fermented to produce ethanol which can be used as a fuel.

Microalgae, Ocean Carbonate System:
A key organism that will determine the response of ocean productivity to rising CO2 is the coccolithophorid Emiliania huxleyi.  E. huxleyi consumes CO2 via photosynthesis, but releases CO2 via precipitation of calcium carbonate.  To better understand how E. huxleyi responds to elevated CO2, I measured all of the photosynthetic parameters, from PSII and PSI activity and abundance, pigment content, photosynthetic C-fixation and cellular respiration and RubisCO content, activity, and enzyme kinetics.

Microalgae, Ocean Carbonate System:
A key organism that will determine the response of ocean productivity to rising CO2 is the coccolithophorid Emiliania huxleyi.  E. huxleyi consumes CO2 via photosynthesis, but releases CO2 via precipitation of calcium carbonate.  To better understand how E. huxleyi responds to elevated CO2, I measured all of the photosynthetic parameters, from PSII and PSI activity and abundance, pigment content, photosynthetic C-fixation and cellular respiration and RubisCO content, activity, and enzyme kinetics.

Current Projects

Biography

Previous Employers:

University of Essex, Colchester, Essex.
University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, USA. 
Isle Of  Man (PEML).
University of the West Indies (CRU).  Trinidad and Tobago. 
University of Liverpool, Liverpool, U.K.

Teaching: Plant Biology, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, USA.

Additional Interests

Synergistic Activities:

Committee Member: Plant Environmental Physiology Group.

Memberships:

  • British Phycological Society
  • Society for Experimental Biology

Contributor to ICES Workshop on the significance of changing Ocean CO2 and pH in shelf sea ecosystems.

Refereed Journals:

  • Global Change Biology
  • Nature
  • Journal of Plant Physiology
  • Annals of Botany
  • Annals of Applied Biology
  • Acta Physiologiae Plantarum
  • International Journal of Plant Sciences
  • Chemosphere
  • Environmental Monitoring and Assessment
  • BBSRC Peer Review
  • Research Council of Norway

Publications

2016

Webster, R.J., Driever, S., Kromdijk, W., McGrath, J., Leakey, A., Siebke, K., Demetriadees-Shah, T., Bonnage, S., Lawson, T., Long, S. 2016. High C3 photosynthetic capacity and high intrinsic water use efficiency underlies the high productivity of the bioenergy grass Arundo donax. Scientific Reports 6 20694 10.1038/srep20694

Clifton-Brown, J., Hastings, A., Mos, M., McCalmont, J., Ashman, C., Awty-Carroll, D.., Cerazy, J., Chiang, Y., Cosentino, S., Cracroft-Eley, W., Scurlock, J., Donnison, I., Glover, C., Golab, I., Greef, J., Gwyn, J., Harding, G., Hayes, C., Helios, W., Hsu, T.W., Huang, L., Jezownski, S., Kim, D., Kiesel, A., Kotecki, A., Krzyzak, J., Lewandowski, I., Lim, S.H., Liu, J., Loosely, M., Meyer, H., Murphy-Bokern, D., Nelson, W., Pogrzeba, M., Robinson, G., Robson, P., Rogers, C., Scalici, G., Schuele, H., Shafiei, R., Shevchuk, O., Schwarz, K., Squance, M., Swaller, T., Thornton, J., Truckses, T., Botnari, V., Vizir, I., Wagner, M., Warren, R., Webster, R., Yamada, T., Youell, S., Xi, Q., Zong, J., Flavell, R. 2016. Progress in upscaling Miscanthus biomass production for the European bio-economy with seed-based hybrids. GCB Bioenergy 10.1111/gcbb.12357

Beddow, J., Johnson, R.J., Lawson, T., Breckels, M.N., Webster, R., Smith, B.E., Rowland, S.J., Whitby, C. 2016. The effect of oil sands process-affected water and model naphthenic acids on photosynthesis and growth in Emiliania huxleyi and Chlorella vulgaris. Chemosphere 145 pp. 416-423. 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2015.11.046

Stavridou, E., Webster, R., Robson, P. 2016. The impact of soil salinity on the yield, composition and physiology of the bioenergy grass Miscanthus x giganteus. GCB Bioenergy 10.1111/gcbb.12351

2015

Boeckx, T., Webster, R., Winters, A., Webb, J., Gay, A., Kingston-Smith, A. 2015. Polyphenol oxidase-mediated protection against oxidative stress is not associated with enhanced photosynthetic efficiency. Annals of Botany 116 (4) pp. 529-540. 10.1093/aob/mcv081

2014

Clifton-Brown, J.C., Purdy, S.J., Hayes, C.M., Ashman, C.R., Jones, L.E., Farrar, K., Huang, L.S., Gallagher, J.A., Glover, C.M., Hinton Jones, M.E., Jensen, E.F., Loosley, R.M., Maddison, A.L., McCalmont, J.P., Nunn, C., Robson, P.R., Slavov, G.T., Warren, R.D., Webster, R.J., Youell, S.J., Donnison, I.S., Davey, C.L., Jones, C.M., Barraclough, T., Castle, M., Cunniff, J., Cracroft-Eley, W., Greef, J.M., Hastings, A., Harding, G., Lewandowski, I., Meyer, H., Mos, M., Nelson, W., Richter, G., Rodgers, C., Schwarze, K., Squance, M.G., Swaller, T., Shield, I., Xi, Q., Karp, A., Flavell, R. 2014. Recent advances in Miscanthus science and breeding. International Bioenergy Conference 2014, Manchester, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, 11/03/2014 - 13/03/2014.

2013

Clifton-Brown, J.C., Robson, P.R., Davey, C.L., Farrar, K., Hayes, C.M., Huang, L.S., Jensen, E.F., Jones, L.E., Hinton Jones, M.E., Maddison, A.L., Meyer, H., Norris, J.A., Purdy, S.J., Rodgers, C., Schwarz, K., Salvatore, C., Slavov, G.T., Valentine, J., Webster, R.J., Youell, S.J., Donnison, I.S. 2013. Breeding Miscanthus for bioenergy. In M. Saha, H. Bhandari, J. Bouton (eds), Biomass Crops: Breeding and Genetics. Wiley 10.1002/9781118609477.ch5

Purdy, S.J., Maddison, A.L., Jones, L.E., Webster, R.J., Andralojc, J., Donnison, I.S., Clifton-Brown, J.C. 2013. Characterization of chilling-shock responses in four genotypes of Miscanthus reveals the superior tolerance of M. x giganteus compared with M. sinensis and M. sacchariflorus. Annals of Botany 111 (5) pp. 999-1013. 10.1093/aob/mct059

2011

Boeckx, T., Webster, R., Winters, A.L., Webb, K.J., Kingston-Smith, A.H. 2011. Can PPO mitigate photooxidative damage under abiotic stress conditions? 2011 Society for Experimental Biology Annual Main Meeting, Glasgow, , 01/07/2011 - 04/07/2011. pp. 34.

2010

Lefebvre, S., Webster, R., Harris, G., Read, B., Leonardos, N., Geider, R., Garrido, J.L., Raines, C. 2010. Characterization And Expression Analysis Of The Lhcf Gene Family In Emiliania huxleyi (Haptophyta) Reveals Differential Responses To Light And CO2. Journal of Phycology 46 (1) pp. 123-134. 10.1111/j.1529-8817.2009.00793.x

Archer, S.D., Ragni, M., Webster, R., Airs, R.L., Geider, R.J. 2010. Dimethyl sulfoniopropionate and dimethyl sulfide production in response to photoinhibition in Emiliania huxleyi. Limnology and Oceanography 55 (4) pp. 1579-1589. 10.4319/lo.2010.55.4.1579