Willie is a soil scientist who has made a significant contribution to the Scottish soil map coverage and the Institute soils database, both of which are recognised as two of the Institute's key corporate assets. Willie has over 200 published outputs covering peer reviewed papers, conference papers and abstracts, consultancy reports and a range of knowledge exchange and awareness raising tools. He advises and works closely with policy colleagues in the Scottish Government on diverse issues such as CAP reform, LFA redefinition and delineation and soil policy and has contributed to enquiries (written and verbal) at the House of Lords and the Scottish Parliament in this capacity. He was lead author of 'Scotland's Soil Resource - Current State and Threats' in 2006 for the Scottish Government and which has proved to be a seminal work in the development of the Scottish Soil Framework (Scottish Government 2009); Willie undertook a short term secondment to the Scottish Government to advise on, and contribute to its development. With others, he has developed a range of novel mechanisms to raise awareness of the role and value of soils to society and chairs a Europe wide group, financed by the JRC in Italy, to develop European initiatives on soil education and awareness.
Current research interests
Willie's research interests are primarily related to the role of soils in environmental and ecological research. He has developed and applied a number of modelling approaches to assess a range of diverse land use options, including the potential for native woodlands, land suitability for sewage sludge recycling and for new housing and other built development. Process based information has also been incorporated into parametric rule-based models, for example examining the behaviour of heavy metals in soils. His current interests focus on developing the concept of soil multifunctionality within landscapes, exploring methods of examining trade-offs between them and seeking to explicitly identify the role of soils in the delivery of ecosystem services. Willie also contributes to new interdisciplinary research areas in the Institute including risk assessment and soil valuation in its widest sense. Much of his work capitalises on his in-depth understanding of the data sources used to characterise soils and their functions.
Willie's highlighted publications
Prediction of soil characteristics and colour using data from the National Soils Inventory of Scotland., Aitkenhead, M.J.; Coull, M.C.; Towers, W.; Hudson, G., (In press) Geoderma.
Mapping vulnerable areas in Scotland., Towers, W.; Donnelly, D., (2011) Scottish Government.
The role of soils information in Scottish rural policy and support., Towers, W.; Donnelly, D.; Condliffe, I., (2011) Proceedings of "Soil Science in a Changing World: First Wageningen Conference on Applied Soil Science", Wageningen, The Netherlands, 18-22 September 2011.
Willie's most recent publications
Land use and a low-carbon society., Campbell, C.D.; Lilly, A.; Towers, W.; Chapman, S.J.; Werritty, A.; Hanley, N., (In press) Earth and Environmental Science Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.
Reforming the CAP - with area-based Pillar 1 payments, who wins and who loses?, Matthews, K.B.; Buchan, K.; Miller, D.G.; Towers, W., (2013) Land Use Policy, 31, 209-222.
The squeezed middle: potential conflicts over Scotland?s intermediate quality rural land., Slee, B.; Brown, I.; Donnelly, D.; Gordon, I.J.; Matthews. K.B.; and Towers, W., (2013) The James Hutton Institute.
JHI Climate change research relevant to organic soils and peatlands., Artz, R.R.E.; Chapman, S.J.; Towers, W.; Lilly, A.; Matthews, R., (2012) Briefing Note to IPCC Working Group, 25 January 2012.
Assessment of the feasibility of co-digesting feedstocks - macroalgae and sewage sludge: 1. Value potential., Dawson, J.J.C.; Redden, H.; Hough, R.L.; Sample, J.; Towers, W.; Troldborg, M., (2012) CREW Publication, 2012 - Rapid Response Project (CRWRR002).
Studies to inform policy development with regard to soil degradation: Subproject A: Cost curve for mitigation of soil compaction., Hallett, P.D.; Balana, B.; Towers, W.; Moxey, A.; Chamen, T., (2012) Final Report Defra SP1305 (CTE 1024).
Identification of suitable sites for resampling to assess the role of afforestation on soil carbon contents., Lilly, A.; Towers, W.; Vangelova, E., (2012) Forestry Commission.
All Energy 2012., Miller D.R.; Horne P.; McKeen M.; Riley D.; Cuthbert A.; Slee B.; Towers, W.; Donald W.; Alexander I., (2012) Submission to ADAS and Mynydd y Gwynt Ltd. As part of the LVIA Chapter for inclusion in Mynydd y Gwynt Windfarm Environmental Statement and Planning Proposal.
Mapping vulnerable areas in Scotland., Towers, W.; Donnelly, D., (2012) Briefing Note to Scottish Government.
The potential risks to water quality from diffuse pollution driven by future land use and climate change., Towers, W.; Dunn, S.M.; Dawson, J.J.C.; Sample, J., (2012) Project Report to CREW (call down project requested by SEPA).