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Dr Edgar Turner

Dr Edgar Turner

University Teaching Officer in Department of Zoology

Curator of Insects in Museum of Zoology

Fellow, Clare College

Edgar Turner is accepting applications for PhD students.

Museum Room G.19
Office Phone: 01223 (7)69353


I am a conservation scientist, who researches strategies that can be employed to conserve species diversity and healthy ecosystem functioning both in the UK and abroad.

In Sumatra, Indonesia I work on the Biodiversity and Ecosystem Function in Tropical Agriculture (BEFTA) Project investigating management strategies to increase biodiversity in oil palm plantations without impacting yield. In Sabah, Malaysia I work with the Stability of Altered Forest Ecosystems (SAFE) Project that experimentally investigates the impact of rainforest fragmentation and conversion to agriculture on biodiversity and ecosystem functioning.  In the UK, I have worked with the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire Wildlife Trust, investigating insect diversity and management on chalk grassland and heathland reserves.

I am a University Teaching Officer in the Department of Zoology and Curator of Insects in the University Museum of Zoology;  also a Fellow at Clare College, Cambridge.

Research Group

Insect Ecology Group:
Insect Ecology Group Leader

Research Interests

I am interested in understanding how landscapes can be managed to maintain biodiversity and healthy functioning ecosystems, while still allowing agricultural development to take place. Much of this work has been based in Malaysian Borneo, where I study the impacts of tropical rainforest fragmentation and conversion to oil palm plantation: among the biggest threats to global biodiversity today.

My previous research has investigated the role of large epiphytic plants in housing biodiversity in oil palm plantations. More recently, with the SAFE Project, I helped to establish an experimental landscape, encompassing forest fragments of differing sizes in a newly established oil palm plantation. This project is among the largest ecological experiments in the world and involves a team of over 20 full time staff and many visiting researchers from multiple organisations and countries. By studying a wide range of taxa and ecosystem functions, the project quantifies the impact that habitat change has on ecosystems and how this alters the functional links between different groups of organisms across a tropical landscape.

In Sumatra, Indonesia I am working on a collaborative project with the oil palm industry, the BEFTA Project, which experimentally manipulates the understory habitat complexity within plantations to test its effect on a wide range of taxa and ecosystem processes. The aim of this work is to establish management practices that can be employed to enhance both biodiversity and important ecosystem functions, such as pest control, in tropical agricultural landscapes.

In the UK, my work has focussed on chalk grassland reserves owned and managed by the BCN Wildlife Trust. Working with volunteers from the Wildlife Trust Ecology Groups, this research investigates management to maintain insect biodiversity in small habitat fragments.

Key Publications

Fayle TM, Edwards DP, Foster WA, Mohd Yusah K, Turner EC (2015) An ant-plant by-product mutualism is robust to selective logging of rain forest and conversion to oil palm plantation. Oecologia. doi:10.1007/s00442-014-3208-z

Foster WA, Snaddon JL, Dwi Advento A, Anak Agung Ketut Aryawan, Barclay H, Caliman J-P, Kurniawan C,  Kurz DJ, Mann D, Mohd Naim, Purnomo D, Pujianto, T. Dzulfikar S. Rambe, Slade EM,  Soeprapto, Suhardi, Sudharto Ps, Ribka Sionita Tarigan,  Resti Wahyuningsih, Rudi Harto Widodo and Turner EC (2014) The Biodiversity and Ecosystem Function in Tropical Agriculture (BEFTA) Project. The Planter, Kuala Lumpur, 90, 1061, 581-591.

Ewers RM, Didham RK, Fahrig L, Ferraz G, Hector A, Holt RD, Kapos V, Reynolds G, Sinun W, Snaddon JL & Turner EC (2011) A large-scale forest fragmentation experiment: the Stability of Altered Forest Ecosystems Project. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 366, 3292-3302.

Turner EC & Foster WA (2009) The impact of conversion of primary rainforest to oil palm plantation on the arthropod fauna of a common epiphyte in Sabah, Malaysia. Journal of Tropical Ecology 25, 23-30.

Turner EC, Snaddon JL, Fayle TM & Foster WA (2008) Oil palm in context: identifying the need for biodiversity assessment. Public Library of Science One 3, e2579.

Other Publications

Hudson L et al. (multi-author paper) (2015) The PREDICTS database: a global database of how local terrestrial biodiversity responds to human impacts. Ecology and Evolution. doi: 10.1002/ece3.1303.

Hardwick SR, Toumi R, Pfeifer M, Turner EC, Nilus R & Ewers RM (2015) The relationship between leaf area index and microclimate in tropical forest and oil palm plantation: forest disturbance drives changes in microclimate. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology 201, 187–195.

Slade EM, Mohd Naim, Muhammad I. Burhanuddin, Sudharto Ps, Caliman JP, Foster WA, Snaddon JL, Turner EC, Mann DJ (2014) Can cattle grazing in mature oil palm increase biodiversity and ecosystem service provision? The Planter, Kuala Lumpur, 90, 1062, 655-665.

Peh KS-H, Lin Y, Luke SH, Foster WA & Turner EC (2014). Forest fragmentation and ecosystem function. Global Forest Fragmentation, Eds Kettle CJ and Koh LP. Chapter 8, pp 143-174. CABI. ISBN 978-1-78064-203-1.

Luke SH, Eggleton P, Fayle TM, Turner EC & Davies RG (2014) Functional structure of ant and termite assemblages in old growth forest, logged forest and oil palm plantation in Malaysian Borneo. Biodiversity and Conservation, DOI 10.1007/s10531-014-0750-2.

Fayle TM, Turner EC & Foster WA (2013) Ant mosaics occur in SE Asian oil palm plantation but not rain forest and are influenced by the presence of nest-sites and non-native species. Ecography 36, 1051-1057

M. Yusah K, Turner EC, Yahya BE & Fayle TM (2013).  An elevational gradient in litter-dwelling ant communities in Imbak Canyon, Sabah, Malaysia. Journal of Tropical Biology and Conservation 9, 192-199.

Turner EC,  Abidin YZ, Barlow H, Fayle TM, Jaafar MHH, Chey VK, Larenus J, Nainar A, Reynolds G, Yusof YB, Khoo MS & Ewers RM (2012) The Stability of Altered Forest Ecosystems Project: Investigating The Design Of Human-Modified Landscapes For Productivity And Conservation. The Planter, Kuala Lumpur, 88, 453-468.

Fayle TM, Edwards DP, Turner EC, Dumbrell AJ, Eggleton P & Foster WA (2012) Public goods, public services, and by-product mutualism in an ant-fern symbiosis. Oikos 121, 1279-1286.

Snaddon JL, Turner EC, Fayle TM, Chey VK, Eggleton P & Foster WA (2011) Biodiversity hanging by a thread: the importance of fungal litter-trapping systems in tropical rainforests. Biology Letters 8, 397-400.

Foster WA, Snaddon JL, Turner EC, Fayle TM, Cockerill TD, Ellwood MDF, Broad GR, Chung AYC, Eggleton P, Chey VK & M. Yusah K (2011) Establishing the evidence base for maintaining biodiversity and ecosystem function in the oil palm landscapes of South East Asia. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 366, 3277-3291.

Turner EC, Snaddon JL, Ewers RM, Fayle TM & Foster WA (2011) The impact of oil palm expansion on environmental change: putting conservation research in context. Book Chapter in Environmental Impact of Biofuels, InTech open access publisher (, Edited by Marco Aurélio dos Santos Bernardes, ISBN 978-953-307-479-5.

Fayle TM, Dumbrell AJ, Turner EC & Foster WA (2011) Distributional Patterns of Epiphytic Ferns are Explained by the Presence of Cryptic Species. Biotropica 43, 6-7.

Fayle TM, Turner, EC, Snaddon JL, Vun Khen, C Chung AYC, Eggleton, P & Foster WA. (2010) Oil palm expansion into rainforest greatly reduces ant biodiversity in canopy epiphytes and leaf-litter. Journal of Basic and Applied Ecology 11, 337-345.

Turner EC, Granroth H, Johnson HR, Lucas C, Thompson AM, Froy H, German RN & Holdgate R (2009) Habitat preference and dispersal of the Duke of Burgundy butterfly (Hamearis lucina) on an abandoned chalk quarry in Bedfordshire, UK. Journal of Insect Conservation 13, 475–486

Snaddon JL, Turner EC & Foster WA (2008) Children’s perceptions of rainforest biodiversity: which animals have the lion’s share of environmental awareness? Public Library of Science One 3, e1572. 

Fayle TM, Ellwood MDF, Turner EC, Snaddon JL, M. Yusah K & Foster WA (2008) Bird’s Nest Ferns: islands of biodiversity in the rainforest canopy. Antenna 32, 34-37.

Turner EC, Snaddon JL, Johnson HR & Foster WA (2007) The impact of bird’s nest ferns on stemflow nutrient concentration in a primary rain forest, Sabah, Malaysia. Journal of Tropical Ecology 23, 721-724.

Snaddon JL & Turner EC (2007) A child’s eye view of the insect world: modern culture versus nature on perceptions of insect diversity. Environmental Conservation 34, 33-35.

Field J, Turner EC, Fayle T & Foster WA (2007) Costs of egg production and offspring provisioning: multifaceted parental investment in a digger wasp. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 274, 445-451.

Turner EC & Foster WA (2006) Assessing the influence of Bird’s Nest Ferns (Asplenium spp.) on their local microclimate across a range of habitat disturbances in Sabah, Malaysia. Selbyana 27, 195-200.

Dial R, Ellwood MDF, Turner EC & Foster WA (2006) Arthropod abundance, canopy structure, and microclimate in a Bornean lowland tropical rain forest. Biotropica 38, 643-652.