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Ruth Mitchell

Staff picture: Ruth Mitchell
Ecological Sciences
Ecological Sciences
Plant Soil Ecologist
ruth.mitchell@hutton.ac.uk
+44 (0)344 928 5428 (*)

The James Hutton Institute
Craigiebuckler
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 Biodiversity Topic for the Scottish Government Rural Affairs, Food and Environment Strategic Research Programme. She is a plant and soil ecologist 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 and she is currently leading the Treescapes project DiversiTree.

See more at Google Scholar, Research gate, ORCID.

Current research interests

Recently Ruth's work has focussed on the biodiversity and ecosystem services implications of tree diseases. She is currently leading a UKRI funded Treescapes project called DiversiTree. DiversiTree aims to increase the resilience of current and future woodlands to climate change and tree diseases by understanding the methods to, and the impacts of, diversifying tree species composition within our woods. The project is specifically focussing on Sitka spruce and Scots Pine forests.  A YouTube introduction to the project can be found here: What is DiversiTree? Dr Ruth Mitchell explains - YouTube.

DiversiTree builds on Ruth's previous work on the wider ecological implications of tree diseases. Ruth led the first assessment of the impacts of the tree disease ‘ash dieback’ on biodiversity. The work has been widely used by policy makers, including Defra's tree health resilience strategy, Natural England and NatureScot and practitioners. The full report on ash associated biodiversity can be found here. As part of the THABI project PuRpOsE Ruth and her team worked on the impacts of Acute Oak Decline on biodiversity, identifying 2300 species that use oak trees in the UK. A figure recently cited by the David Attenborough film Wild Isles.  For both ash and oak Ruth lead teams of reseachers who identified 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 identified 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

Ruth's interest in the impact of tree diseases on biodiversity has lead to wider work on the impact of plant diseases in natural habitats (work with Scotlands Plant Health Centre). This resulted in a SEFARI casestudy on which habitats are at greatest risk from plant pests and pathogens

Within the Scottish Government Strategic Research Programme 2022-2027 Ruth is leading work on projected areas and contributing to work on  restoration of plantations in ancient woodlands, invasive species - particularly plant pests and pathogends and healthy soils.

 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.

As the past chair of the British Ecological Society’s Scottish Policy Groupand current member of NatureScot’s Scientific Advisory Committee,and Defra’s Trees and Woodlands Science Advisory Group, Ruth aims to make her work policy relevant with practical applications for stakeholders.

Bibliography

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  • Mitchell, R.J. (2024) A host-based approach for the prioritisation of surveillance of plant pests and pathogens in wild flora and natural habitats in the UK, Biological Invasions
  • Smith, S.W.; Holland, J. P.; Mitchell, R.J.; Pollock, M. L.; Pakeman, R. J. (2024) Calldown request The James Hutton Institute and Scottish Rural Collegue The biodiversity impacts of grazing Q A, Report to RESAS
  • Mitchell, R. (2023) The amplification of plant disease risk through ecological restoration, Restoration Ecology, 31(5), Art. E13937
  • Mitchell, R.; Albon, S.; Stockan, J.; Taylor, A.; Bates, S.; Bellamy, P.; Dandy, N.; Downey, H.; Ellis, C.; Hodgetts, N.; Jackson, R.; Johnstone, C.; Lamberte, L.; Nichols, C.; Rabiey, M. (2023) Diversifying tree species composition within our forests to increase resilience - an interdisciplinary approach, Hutton Annual Research Symposium, 21 November 2023, Apex Hotel, Dundee
  • Mitchell, R.; Plenderleith, F. (2023) Ash dieback - consequences for biodiversity and mitigation strategies, Creating Canopy: the biology and practice of establishing trees and woodlands for people and nature including FraxNet meeting, 27-29 November 2023, University of Nottingham and Online
  • Mitchell, R. (2023) How resilient are our native woodlands to multiple pests and pathogens, CIEEM 2023 Scottish Conference: The Role of Trees in a Sustainable Future, 3 October 2023, Edinburgh
  • Mitchell, R. (2023) The amplification of plant disease risk through ecological restoration, North East Scotland Ecological Network Science Day
  • Mitchell, R. (2023) Plant Health and the Natural Environment: Fellowship Final Report, Plant Health Centre, 124pp
  • Mitchell, R. (2023) Plant Health and the Natural Environment: Policy Summary, Plant Health Centre
  • Pakeman, R.J.; Britton, A.; Hawes, C.; Stockan, J.; Stutter, M.; Wilkinson, M.; Artz, R.; Brooker, R.; Mitchell, R.; Addy, S. (2023) Calldown Request – James Hutton Institute – Reviewing priority actions according to their impact on halting biodiversity decline in the delivery plan for Scotlands Biodiversity Strategy, Report to NatureScot.
  • Mitchell, R. (2023) Which habitats are at greatest risk from plant pests and pathogens?, SEFARI case study.
  • Mitchell, R.; Fielding, D.; Hewison, R.; Jabloun, M.; Pakeman, R.; Rivington, M.; Taylor, A. (2023) Enhancing the Biodiversity of the Glen Lochay Estate Assessing the baseline and identifying options for potential future biodiversity management strategies and activities Report to Glen Lochay Estate, Report to Estate.
  • Plenderleith, F.; Palmer, S. C. F; Travis, J. M. J.; Lancaster, L. T.; Stockan, J.; Mitchell, R. (2022) The consequences of tree disease and pre-emptive felling on functional and genetic connectivity for woodland invertebrates, Ecological Informatics, 72, Art. 101820
  • Mitchell, R.J.; Bellamy, P.; Broome, A.; Ellis, C.; Hewison, R.; Iason, G.; Littlewood, N.; Newey, S.; Pozsgai, G.; Dunan, R.; Stockan, J.; Stokes, V.; Taylor, A. (2022) Cumulative impact assessments of multiple host species loss from plant diseases show disproportionate reductions in associated biodiversity, Journal of Ecology, 110(1), 221-231
  • Mitchell, R. (2022) The MOORCO Experiment using longterm experiments to assess the potential of trees to help achieve net zero , 22nd World Congress of Soil Science, 31 July - 5 August, Glasgow
  • Mitchell, R. (2022) Plant health and the natural environment, Scotland's Plant Health Conference 2022, 1 June 2022, Dundee
  • Mitchell, R. (2022) Tree planting and soil carbon, SEFARI case study
  • Mitchell, R.; Green, S.; Hollingsworth, P. (2022) Plant Health, Biosecurity, and Conservation Translocations, In: Gaywood, M. Ewen, J. Hollingsworth, P. & Moehrenschlager, A. (eds.). Conservation Translocations. Ecology, Biodiversity and Conservation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, Chapter 8, pp 241-270
  • Mitchell, R.J; Hewison, R.L.; Beaton, J.; Douglass J.R. (2021) Identifying substitute host tree species for epiphytes: the relative importance of tree size and species, bark and site characteristics., Applied Vegetation Science, 24(2), Article No. e12569
  • Mitchell, R.J.; Hewison, R.L.; Haghi, R.K.; Robertson, A.H.J.; Main, A.M.; Owen, I.J. (2021) Functional and ecosystem service differences between tree species: implications for tree species replacement, Trees, 35, 307-317
  • 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.
  • Brooker, R.; Mitchell, R.; Roberts, D.; Matthews, K.; Waylen, K.A. (2021) Think piece on multifunctional landscapes, Report submitted to Sallie Ballie in response to Call-Down request.
  • Broome, A.; Stokes, V.; Mitchell, R.J.; Duncan, R. (2021) Ecological implications of oak decline in Great Britain., Forest Research, Research Note FRRN040, 12pp.
  • Mitchell, R.J. (2021) Ecological resilience - woodlands and tree pests/pathogens., SEFARI Case Studies Webpage.
  • Mitchell, R.J. (2021) Ecosystem resilience - woodland establishment on heather moorland and carbon budgets., SEFARI Case Studies Webpage.
  • Friggens, N.L.; Hester, A.J.; Mitchell, R.J.; Parker, T.C.; Subke, J-A.; Wookey, P.A. (2020) Tree planting in organic soils does not result in net carbon sequestration on decadal timescales., Global Change Biology. 26, 5178-5188.
  • Payne, R.J.; Campbell, C.; Stevens, C.J.; Pakeman, R.J.; Ross, L.C.; Britton, A.J.; Mitchell, R.J.; Jones, L.; Field, C.; Caporn, S.J.M.; Carroll, J.; Edmondson, J.L.; Carnell, E.J.; Tomlinson, S.; Dore, A.; Dragosits, U.; Dise, N. (2020) Disparities between plant community responses to nitrogen deposition and critical loads in UK semi-natural habitats., Atmospheric Environment, 239, Article No. 117478.
  • van Paassen, J.G.; Britton, A.J.; Mitchell, R.J.; Street, L.E.; Johnson, D.; Coupar, A.; Woodin, S.J. (2020) Legacy effects of nitrogen and phosphorus additions on vegetation and carbon stocks of upland heaths., New Phytologist, 228, 226-237.

  • Mitchell, R.; Green, S.; Hollingsworth, P. (2022) Plant Health, Biosecurity, and Conservation Translocations, In: Gaywood, M. Ewen, J. Hollingsworth, P. & Moehrenschlager, A. (eds.). Conservation Translocations. Ecology, Biodiversity and Conservation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, Chapter 8, pp 241-270
  • 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.; Albon, S.; Stockan, J.; Taylor, A.; Bates, S.; Bellamy, P.; Dandy, N.; Downey, H.; Ellis, C.; Hodgetts, N.; Jackson, R.; Johnstone, C.; Lamberte, L.; Nichols, C.; Rabiey, M. (2023) Diversifying tree species composition within our forests to increase resilience - an interdisciplinary approach, Hutton Annual Research Symposium, 21 November 2023, Apex Hotel, Dundee
  • Mitchell, R.; Plenderleith, F. (2023) Ash dieback - consequences for biodiversity and mitigation strategies, Creating Canopy: the biology and practice of establishing trees and woodlands for people and nature including FraxNet meeting, 27-29 November 2023, University of Nottingham and Online
  • Mitchell, R. (2023) How resilient are our native woodlands to multiple pests and pathogens, CIEEM 2023 Scottish Conference: The Role of Trees in a Sustainable Future, 3 October 2023, Edinburgh
  • Mitchell, R. (2023) The amplification of plant disease risk through ecological restoration, North East Scotland Ecological Network Science Day
  • Mitchell, R. (2022) The MOORCO Experiment using longterm experiments to assess the potential of trees to help achieve net zero , 22nd World Congress of Soil Science, 31 July - 5 August, Glasgow
  • Mitchell, R. (2022) Plant health and the natural environment, Scotland's Plant Health Conference 2022, 1 June 2022, Dundee
  • 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.

  • Mitchell, R.; Albon, S.; Cocks, L.; Johnstone, C.; Stockan, J.; Taylor, A.; Bellamy, P.; Bates, S.; Dandy, N.; Downey, H.; Ellis, C.; Jackson, R.; Lamberte, L.; Hodgetts, N.; Nichols, C.; Rabiey, M. (2023) Diversifying tree species within our forets to increase resilience - an interdisciplinary approach, Creating Canopy: the biology and practice of establishing trees and woodlands for people and nature including FraxNet meeting, 27-29 November 2023, University of Nottingham and Online
  • Mitchell, R.; Albon, S.; Bates, S.; Bellamy, P.; Cocks, L.; Dandy, N.; Downey, H.; Ellis, C.; Jackson, R.; Johnson, C.; Hodgetts, N.; Lamberte, L.; Nichols, C.; Rabiey, M.; Stockan, J.; Taylor, A. (2023) Diversifying tree specie within our forests to increase resilience - an interdisciplinary approach, CIEEM 2023 Scottish Conference : The Role of Trees in a Sustainable Future, 3 October 2023, Edinburgh
  • Mitchell, R.; Elliot, M.; Ward, L.; Ward, l.; Creissen, H. (2023) Biosecurity best practice for conservation, CIEEM conference: The Role of Trees in a Sustainable Future, 3 October 2023, Edinburgh
  • Mitchell, R.; Stone, D. (2022) Assessing the plant health risks to Scottish moorlands, Scotland's Plant Health Conference 2022, 1 June 2022, Dundee
  • Mitchell, R.; Stone, D. (2022) Assessing, mitigating and increasing resilience to plant health risks in the natural environment, Scotland's Plant Health Conference 2022, 1 June 2022, Dundee
  • Mitchell, R.J.; Hewison, R.; Haghi, R.K.; Robertson, A.J.; Main, A.; Owen, J. (2020) Functional and ecosystem service differences between tree species implications for tree species replacement., British Ecological Society Annual Meeting, Edinburgh 14-17 December 2020, Online. (Poster)
  • Plenderleith, F.; Palmer, S.; Travis, J.; Stockan, J.; Lancaster, L.; Mitchell, R. (2020) The consequences of ash dieback and associated management on connectivity for forest insects., British Ecological Society (BES) Festival of Ecology, 14-18 December 2020. Poster. (Online).
  • Bhatti, N.; Mitchell, R.J.; Britton, A.J.; Cornulier, T.; Potts, J.; Woodin, S.; Genney, D. (2018) Developing monitoring tools for conservation priority lichen species., British Ecological Society (BES) Annual Conference, Birmingham, 16-19 December 2018.
  • Mitchell, R.J.; Woodward, S.; Potting, R.; Eschen, R.; Kenis, M. (2018) Feasibility study for a database of ecological importance of European tree species., In: Sentinel Plantings for Detecting alien, Potentially Damaging Tree Pests: State of the art 2018. COST Conference, Campus Sursee, Switzerland, 9-12 October 2018. Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research WSL. Program and Abstracts, p22. Abstract Paper ID 142.
  • Bhatti, N.; Britton, A.J.; Cornulier, T.; Genney, D.; Mitchell, R.; Potts, J.; Woodin, S. (2017) Investigating detection rates: developing tools for monitoring data-deficient, conservation-priority lichen species., British Ecological Society Conference 2017, Ecology Across Borders, Ghent, Belgium, 11-14 December 2017. (Poster)
  • Mitchell, R.J.; Britton, A.J.; Potts, J.; Genney, D.R. (2014) Are expectations for biodiversity monitoring realistic?, Protecting Scotland's Biodiversity: Monitoring in Action Joint BES/CIEEM/STG Meeting, Edinburgh, 2-3 October 2014.
  • Mitchell, R.J.; Britton, A.J.; Potts, J.; Genney, D.R. (2014) Are expectations for biodiversity monitoring realistic?., Joint BES/SFE Annual Meeting, Lille, France, 9-12 December 2014.

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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.