Ruth Mitchell

Image of Ruth Mitchell
Biodiversity and Ecosystems Group Lead, Plant and Soil Ecologist at the James Hutton Institute tree diseases; upland biodiversity; restoration; plants; woodlands

Committee role: Ordinary Member

My current research focusses on 1) the ecological impacts of tree diseases and potential mitigation measures and 2) the impacts of woodland expansion  on soil properties and biodiversity. I have studied the wider ecological impacts of the tree diseases ash dieback and acute oak decline, co-ordinating work that has collated lists of 955 ash associated species and 2300 oak associated species, the first time such times have been collated.  We have assessed the suitability of other trees to replace ash and oak and support the same biodiversity and used this to produce advice for woodland managers.

My work on woodland expansion has assessed how soil carbon stocks change following the planting of native woodland species on organic rich soils. Previous woodland related research has focused on the impacts on woodlands of grazing, invasive species and nitrogen pollution, as well as work on woodland restoration. These topics are part of the broader theme of my research on how different drivers (especially pollution and land management) impact on biodiversity, particularly upland semi-natural plant communities and on their interactions with the chemical, physical and biological aspects of soil.

I have published over 60 peer reviewed papers and 40 contract reports. My work is strongly focused on being policy relevant as is evident in my role in NatureScot’s science advisory committee and  the Plant Health Centre’s science Response team.