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Ruth Mitchell

Staff picture: Ruth Mitchell
Ecological Sciences
Ecological Sciences
Plant Soil Ecologist
+44 (0)344 928 5428 (*)

The James Hutton Institute
Aberdeen AB15 8QH
Scotland UK


Ruth Mitchell leads the Biodiversity and Ecosystems Group within the Ecological Sciences Department at the Institute. She also leads the Natural Assets Theme for Scottish Government Rural Affairs, Food and Environment Strategic Research Programme. She is a plant and soil ecologists with 20 years experience of working on a wide range of applied ecological research projects. Her research focuses on the impact of pressures on above and below ground biodiversity and habitat restoration. Recently she has specialized in assessing the wider environmental impacts of  tree diseases.

See more at Google Scholar, Research gate, ORCID.

Current research interests

Ruth's research focuses on the impact of abiotic and anthropogenic factors on above and below-ground biodiversity and habitat restoration. Most recently Ruth has been working on the potential ecological impacts of the tree disease ash dieback (also known as Hymenoscyphus pseudoalbidus or Chalara fraxinea) and Acute Oak Decline.  She leads teams of reseachers who identify those species that are most closely associated with ash or oak and therefore are most at risk from a decline in these tree species.  In addition the team identifies the ecological functioning of ash and oak trees and how these compared to other native trees in the UK. The results are used to produced a range of tools to aid woodland managers in conserving ash and oak associated biodiversity.  The full report on ash associated biodiversity can be found here. The work on oak decline is part of the THABI project PuRpOsE and results from this project can be found here.

 Ruth has a long standing interested in successional processes and her work on plant-soil interactions studies how changes in land-use (principally tree colonisation on moorland) affects the vegetation, soil chemistry, soil fauna and ecosystem functioning. She co-ordinates a large, long-term experiment studying the impact of tree colonisation on moorland biodiversity and ecosystem processes (MOORCO). Ruth's research on the impact of pressures on biodiversity has focussed on grazing, pollution and climate change. She has worked on over-grazing issues in both moorlands and Atlantic oakwoods and assessed the impact of nitrogen deposition on heather-dominated moorland and on epiphytic lichens and bryophytes in Atlantic oakwoods. Ruth has carried out research on the restoration of a range of habitats resulting in techniques for re-establishment of heathland (both soils and vegetation) following scrub invasion, the establishment of heather on over-grazed moorlands, the restoration of Atlantic Oakwoods and the recovery of epiphytic bryophytes following a reduction in nitrogen pollution.

Ruth is a member of the British Ecological Society's Scotttish Policy Group and NatureScots Science Advisory Committee


  • Britton, A.; Mitchell, R.; Taylor A. (2016) Cascading effects of nitrogen pollution on biodiversity and ecosystem function in alpine systems., In: Irvine, R.J. (ed.) Biodiversity and Upland Management. The James Hutton Institute, Craigiebuckler, Aberdeen, Chapter 10, pp22-23.
  • Mitchell, R.; Hewison, R.; Britton, A.; Pakeman, R.J.; Hester, A. (2016) Long-term changes in Scottish grassland plant communities., In: Pakeman, R.J. (ed.). Grassland Biodiversity. The James Hutton Institute, Craigiebuckler, Aberdeen, pp4-5.

  • Mitchell, R. (2022) The MOORCO Experiment using longterm experiments to assess the potential of trees to help achieve net zero , WORLD CONGRESS OF SOIL SCIENCE 2022, GLASGOW, 1-5 AUGUST ECOLOGICAL CONTINUITY TRUST FRINGE EVENT: Long-term Ecological Field Experiments – Opportunities for Soil Scientists
  • Mitchell, R. (2022) Plant health and the natural environment, Scottish Plant Health Centre Conference 1st June 2022
  • Mitchell, R. (2021) How resilient are our native woodlands to multiple pests and pathogens, BIFOR and Association of Applied Biologists. Trees for Future Conference. 3rd & 4th November 2021
  • Mitchell, R.J. (2021) Tree diseases: wider ecological impacts and management implications., Keynote Speaker at BiFor Fifth Annual (Virtual) Community Meeting, University of Birmingham, 27-28 January 2021.
  • Toth, I.K.; Humphris, S.; Mitchell, R.J. (2018) Plant Health Centre of Expertise., Crop Production in Northern Britain Conference, Apex Hotel, Dundee, 27-28 February 2018.
  • Toth, I.K.; Humphris, S.; Mitchell, R.J. (2018) Plant Health Centre of Expertise for Scotland., Scottish Society for Crop Research Potato Winter Meeting, 22 March 2018.
  • Mitchell, R.J.; Broome, A. (2015) Methods to identify the ecological and conservation implications of tree diseases and potential management options: lessons from ash dieback., Presentation at Invasive Insects and Trees: Detection, Management and Policy. A two-day conference incorporating the Expert Meeting on Oak Precessionary Moth, University of Hull, 19-20 February 2015.
  • Mitchell, R.J.; Broome, A. (2014) Ash dieback in the UK: identifying the ecological and conservation implications and potential management options., Seminar at FP1103 FRAXBACK Meeting, Palanga, 15-18 September 2014.
  • Nilsson, C.; Aradottir, A.; Hagan, D.; Halldorson, G.; Mitchell, R.J.; Rauland-Rasmussen, K.; Svavarsdottir, K.; Tolvanen, A.; Wilson, S. (2014) The process of evaluating ecological restoration., The 9th European Conference on Ecological Restoration, Society for Ecological Restoration, Oulu, Finland, 3-8 August 2014.
  • Mitchell, R.J.; Critchely, N.; Rose, R.J. (2014) Restoration of Calluna Vulgaris on grass-dominated moorlands: the importance of disturbance, grazing and seeding., The 9th European Conference on Ecological Restoration, Society for Ecological Restoration, Oulu, Finland, 3-8 August 2014.
  • Andersen, R.; Artz, R.R.E.; Cummins, R.; Mitchell, R.; Balana, B.; Donnelly, D.; Chapman, S.J.; Smith, J.; Smith, P. (2011) Managing and restoring blanket bogs to benefit biodiversity and carbon in Scotland: a scoping study., International Symposium on Responsible Peatland Management and Growing Media Production, Quebec City, Canada, 13-17 June 2011.
  • Mitchell R.J.; Hester A.H.; Campbell C.D.; Chapman S.J.; Cameron C.M.; Hewison R.L.; Potts J.M. (2010) Predicting the soil microbial community: is vegetation composition or soil chemistry the better predictor?, British Ecological Society Conference, University of Leeds, Leeds, 7-9 September 2010.

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The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.