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Principle Landscape Ecologist
Kevin’s applied research as a landscape ecologist is focussed on understanding the impact of land use and climate change on the biodiversity and the resilience of wooded landscapes, with the aim of informing policy and practice.
His work utilises spatial models, tools, indicators and simulations to explore and predict potential impacts of land use and climate change scenarios. This work is coupled with empirical studies on species movement, landscape genetics and field experiments to ensure his work is underpinned by a strong evidence base.
Much of this work has been developed through joint projects and the co-supervision of PhD studies with a wide networks of collaborators, most recently with the Universities of Stirling, Aberdeen, York, Reading and Southampton.
Prof Kevin Watts joined Forest Research in 2002, after completing his PhD at the Countryside and Community Research Unit, University of Gloucestershire. He is currently Principle Landscape Ecologist at Forest Research and in the Land Use and Ecosystem Services (LUES) Research Group. He was also awarded an honorary Professorship Lectureship at the University of Stirling in 2021.
This research aims to find out how to expand woodland cover in a way that maximises ecological and social benefits. The programme complements the other six programmes and follows collaborative principles to produce tools which support land managers, stakeholders and policy makers to increase engagement with woodland creation activities
The research aims to increase our understanding of how woodlands and wooded landscapes provide a diverse range of ecosystem services (ES), and to help policymakers, forest managers and planners understand and assess how the specific placement and management of woodlands affects ES delivery at various scales.
WrEN is a long-term, large-scale ‘natural experiment’ which is studying the influence of different site and landscape attributes on biodiversity in a chronosequence of secondary woodlands.
Principles and techniques for developing FHNs, includes models to assess and measure the ecological function FHNs as an aid to woodland planning and woodland management for biodiversity benefits
Landscape Ecology at Forest Research, including principles and applications
More biodiverse woodlands are better able to resist or adapt to threats, such as climate change. This enhanced resilience supports the continuity of woodlands and the ecosystem services they provide. Biodiversity is the variation at different levels of biological organisation - the genes within a species; the species within a community; and the diversity between communities and ecosystems.
This journal paper investigates the factors that drive deer damage to woodlands using the National Forest Inventory sample square data. We found that the likelihood of damage to trees depends on cross-scale interactions between climate, deer density and landscape structure. The complex interactive effects uncovered are difficult to interpret. We therefore provide an interactive Deer Damage Tool for practitioners to visualize how afforestation is likely to influence the probability of deer damage in different forests and regions across Britain.
A major sustainability challenge is determining where to target management to enhance natural capital and the ecosystem services it provides. Achieving this understanding is difficult, given that the effects of most actions vary according to wider environmental conditions; and this context dependency is typically poorly understood. Here, we describe an analytical framework that helps meet […]
Woodland ecosystems are integral to our health, well-being, security and economy, but they face a number of pressures including climate change, land-use intensification, and emerging pests and diseases. This Research Note explores the links between biodiversity, measured at different levels of organisation (genes, species and communities), and the ability of woodland ecosystems to withstand and […]
Recent research by Forest Research scientists and colleagues at the University of York shows that northern hairy wood ants (Formica lugubris) have successfully colonised plantations of largely non-native coniferous species in the North York Moors National Park. The studies show that there has been a remarkable expansion of the population of this ant into new […]
A multi-species modelling approach to examine the impact of alternative climate change adaptation strategies on range shifting ability in a fragmented landscape This paper describes research to test the effects of varying ‘climate change adaptation strategies’ on the ability of different animals to move through the landscape in response to changing climatic conditions. The adaptation […]
Maintaining species’ movement around landscapes is considered important if we are to conserve populations of many species and help them adapt to climate change. Particular features in the landscape have the potential to hinder or facilitate species movement. As each species interacts with the landscape differently, it can be hard to extract general patterns to […]
By Darren Moseley, Duncan Ray, Kevin Watts & Jonathan Humphrey. Contract report to Forestry Commission Scotland, Forestry Commission GB and Scottish Natural Heritage.
This Information Note explains the scientific principles behind the approach being developed as BEETLE – Biological and Environmental Evaluation Tools for Landscape Ecology.
Peer reviewed journals
Spake, R., Bellamy, C., Gill, R., Watts, K., Wilson, T., Ditchburn, B., & Eigenbrod, F. (2020) Forest damage by deer depends on cross‐scale interactions between climate, deer density and landscape structure. Journal of Applied Ecology. https://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2664.13622.
Bellamy, C., Barsoum, N., Cottrell, J. and Watts, K. (2018) Encouraging biodiversity at all scales in support of resilient woodlands. Forestry Commission Research Note (in press). Forestry Commission, Edinburgh.
Fuentes-Montemayor, E., Watts, K., Macgregor, N.A., Lopez-Gallego, Z. & J. Park, K. (2017) Species mobility and landscape context determine the importance of local and landscape-level attributes. Ecological Applications, 27, 1541–1554.
Fuller, L., Fuentes-Montemayor, E., Watts, K., Macgregor, N.A., Bitenc, K. & Park, K.J. (2017) Local-scale attributes determine the suitability of woodland creation sites for Diptera. Journal of Applied Ecology.
Whytock, R.C., Fuentes-Montemayor, E., Watts, K., Barbosa De Andrade, P., Whytock, R., French, P., Macgregor, N. & Park, K.J. (2017) Bird community responses to habitat creation in a long-term, large-scale natural experiment. Conservation Biology.
Procter, D.S., Cottrell, J.E., Watts, K., A’Hara, S.W., Hofreiter, M. & Robinson, E.J.H. (2016) Does cooperation mean kinship between spatially discrete ant nests? Ecology and Evolution.
Synes, N.W., Brown, C., Watts, K., White, S.M., Gilbert, M.A. & Travis, J.M.J. (2016) Emerging Opportunities for Landscape Ecological Modelling. Current Landscape Ecology Reports.
Watts, K., Fuentes-Montemayor, E., Macgregor, N.A., Peredo-Alvarez, V., Ferryman, M., Bellamy, C., Brown, N. & Park, K.J. (2016) Using historical
woodland creation to construct a long-term, large-scale natural experiment: the WrEN project. Ecology and Evolution, 6, 3012–3025.
Watts, K., Vanhala, T., Connolly, T. & Cottrell, J. (2016) Striking the right balance between site and landscape-scale conservation actions for a woodland insect within a highly fragmented landscape: A landscape genetics perspective. Biological Conservation, 195, 146–155.
Oliver, T.H., Smithers, R.J., Beale, C.M. & Watts, K. (2016) Are existing biodiversity conservation strategies appropriate in a changing climate? Biological Conservation, 193, 17–26. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2015.10.024
Procter, D.S., Cottrell, J., Watts, K., Robinson E.J.H (2015) Do non-native conifer plantations provide benefits for a native forest specialist, the wood ant Formica lugubris? Forest Ecology and Management doi:10.1016/j.foreco.2015.07.034
Fuentes-Montemayor, E., Peredo-Alvarez, V.M., Watts, K. & Park, K.J. (2015) Are woodland creation schemes providing suitable resources for biodiversity? Woodland moths as a case study. Biodiversity and Conservation, 24, 3049–3070.
Synes, N., Watts, K., Palmer, S., Bodedi, G., Barton, K., Osborne, P & Travis, J. (2015) A multi-species modelling approach to examine the impact of alternative climate change adaptation strategies on range shifting ability in a fragmented landscape, Ecological Informatics, June 2015.
Brown, I., Berry, P., Everard, M., Firbank, L., Harrison, P., Lundy, L., Quine, C., Rowan, J., Wade, R. and Watts, K. (2015). Identifying robust response options to manage environmental change using an Ecosystem Approach: A stress-testing case study for the UK. Environmental Science and Policy 52, 74-88.
Oliver, T.H., Smithers, R.J. and Watts, K. (2015). Corrigendum: A decision framework for considering climate change adaptation in biodiversity conservation planning. Journal of Applied Ecology 52 (2), 538. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1365-2664.12396
Humphrey, J. W., Watts, K., Fuentes-Montemayor, E., Macgregor, N. A., Peace, A. J. and Park, K. J. (2015). What can studies of woodland fragmentation and creation tell us about ecological networks? A literature review and synthesis. Landscape Ecology 30 (1), 21-50. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10980-014-0107-y.
Vanhala, T., Watts, K., A’Hara, S. and Cottrell, J. (2014). Population genetics of wood ants Formica aquilonia in Scotland: the effects of long-term forest fragmentation and recent reforestation. Conservation Genetics 15 (4), 856-868. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10592-014-0584-1.
Bocedi, G., Palmer, S. C. F., Pe’er, G., Heikkinen, R. K. , Matsinos, Y. G., Watts, K. and Travis, J.M.J. (2014). RangeShifter: a platform for modeling spatial eco-evolutionary dynamics and species’ responses to environmental changes. Methods in Ecology and Evolution 5 (4), 388-396. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/2041-210X.12162.
Stevenson-Holt, C.D., Watts, K., Bellamy, C., Nevin, O.T. and Ramsey, A.D. (2014). Defining Landscape Resistance Values in Least-Cost Connectivity Models for the Invasive Grey Squirrel: A Comparison of Approaches Using Expert-Opinion and Habitat Suitability Modelling. PLoS ONE 9 (11), e112119. http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0112119
Moseley, D., Marzano, M., Chetcuti, J. and Watts, K. (2013). Green networks for people: Application of a functional approach to support the planning and management of greenspace. Landscape and Urban Planning 116, 1-12. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.landurbplan.2013.04.004.
Quine, C., Bailey, S.A. and Watts, K. (2013). Sustainable forest management in a time of ecosystem services frameworks: common ground and consequences. Journal of Applied Ecology 50 (4), 863–867. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1365-2664.12068.
Stevenson, C., Ferryman, M., Nevin, O.T., Ramsey, A., Bailey, S. and Watts, K. (2013). Using GPS telemetry to validate least-cost modelling of grey squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) movement within a fragmented landscape. Ecology and Evolution 3 (7), 2350–2361. http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ece3.638.
Eycott, A.E., Stewart, G.B., Buyung-Ali, L. M., Bowler, D. E., Watts, K. and Pullin, A.S. (2012). A meta-analysis on the impact of different matrix structures on species movement rates. Landscape Ecology 27 (9), 1263-1278. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10980-012-9781-9.
Oliver, T.H., Smithers, R.J., Bailey, S., Walmsley, C.A. and Watts, K. (2012). A decision framework for considering climate change adaptation in biodiversity conservation planning. Journal of Applied Ecology 49 (6), 1247-1255. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1365-2664.12003.
Eycott, A. E., Marzano, M. and Watts, K. (2011). Filling evidence gaps with expert opinion: The use of Delphi analysis in least-cost modelling of functional connectivity. Landscape and Urban Planning 103 (3-4), 400-409 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.landurbplan.2011.08.014.
Thomas, C.D., Hill, J.K., Anderson, B.J., Bailey, S., Beale, C.M., Bradbury, R.B., Bulman, C.R., Crick, H.Q.P., Eigenbrod, F., Griffiths, H.M., Kunin, W.E., Oliver, T.H., Walmsley, C. a., Watts, K., Worsfold, N.T. & Yardley, T. (2011) A framework for assessing threats and benefits to species responding to climate change. Methods in Ecology and Evolution, 2, 125–142. http://doi.wiley.com/10.1111/j.2041-210X.2010.00065.x
Watts, K., Eycott, A.E., Handley, P., Ray, D., Humphrey, J.W. and Quine, C. (2010). Targeting and evaluating biodiversity conservation action within fragmented landscapes: An approach based on generic focal species and least-cost networks. Landscape Ecology 25 (9), 1305-1318. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10980-010-9507-9.
Brouwers, N.C., Newton, A.C., Watts, K. & Bailey, S. (2010) Evaluation of buffer-radius modelling approaches used in forest conservation and planning. Forestry, 83, 409–421.
Watts, K. and Handley, P. (2010). Developing a functional connectivity indicator to detect change in fragmented landscapes. Ecological Indicators 10, 552-557.
Book and book chapters (incl published conference proceedings)
Harmer, R., Watts, K. & Ray, D. (2015) A Hundred Years of Woodland Restoration in Great Britain: Changes in the Drivers That Influenced the Increase in Woodland Cover. Restoration of Boreal and Temperate Forests, Second Edition Integrative Studies in Water Management & Land Deve., pp. 299–320. CRC Press. http://dx.doi.org/10.1201/b18809-15
FC and FR publications including official statistics
Sing, L., Ray, D. & Watts, K. (2015) Ecosystem Services and Forest Management. Forestry Commission, Edinburgh.
Stevenson, C., Watts, K., Nevin, O., Ramsey, A. & Bailey, S. (2013) Modelling Ecological Networks and Dispersal in Grey Squirrels. Forestry Commission, Edinburgh.
Eycott, A.E. & Watts, K. (2011) Biodiversity in Fragmented Landscapes: Reviewing the Evidence on the Effects of Landscape Features on Species Movement. Forestry Commission, Edinburgh.
Contract and project reports
Moseley, D., Burton, V., Bellamy, C. & Watts, K. (2015) Evaluating the Functionality of Ecological Networks in the Brue Valley Living Landscape through the Assessment of Ecological Coherence and Resilience. Forest Research, Edinburgh, Scotland.
Park, K., Fuentes-Montemayor, E., Watts, K. & Macgregor, N. (2015) Woodland Creation and Ecological Networks. Phase 2: Milestone 4 – Defra Contract LM0315. University of Stirling.
Anderson, R., Watts, K., Riddle, N., Crosher, I. & Diack, I. (2014) An Assessment of the Afforested Peat Land in England and Opportunities for Restoration. Forest Research, Edinburgh, Scotland.
Brown, I., Harrison, P., Ashley, J., Berry, P., Everard, M., Firbank, L., Hull, S., Lundy, L., Quine, C., Rowan, J., Wade, R., Walmsley, S., Watts, K. & Kass, G. (2014) UK National Ecosystem Assessment Follow-On. Work Package Report 8: Robust Response Options: What Response Options Might Be Used to Improve Policy and Practice for the Sustainable Delivery of Ecosystem Services?. UNEP-WCMC, LWEC, UK.
Dandy, N., Ambrose-Oji, B., Handley, P. & Watts, K. (2013) Land-Manager Networks Project: Work Package 2 Final Report – Network Analysis and Segmentation. Forest Research, Farnham, England.
Humphrey, J., Watts, K., Fuentes-Montemayor, E., Macgregor, N. & Park, K. (2013) The Evidence Base for Ecological Networks: Lessons from Studies of Woodland Fragmentation and Creation. Forest Research, Farnham, Surrey.
Eycott, A.E., Watts, K., Brandt, G., Buyung-Ali, L.M., Bowler, D., Stewart, G.B. & Pullin, A.S. (2010) Which Matrix Features Affect Species Movement? Systematic Review CEE 08-006 (ex SR No. 43). Collaboration for Environmental Evidence, Bangor, Wales, UK.
Tonti, D., Estreguil, C., Marchetti, M., Oehrmichen, K., Chirici, G., Troeltzch, K. & Watts, K. (2010) Linking and Harmonizing Forest Spatial Pattern Analyses at European, National and Regional Scales for a Better Characterization of Forest Vulnerability and Resilience (ed J.R.C.S. and T. Reports). Publication Office of the European Union, Luxembourg – http://dx.doi.org/10.2788/6495.
Watts, K., Handley, P., Eycott, A.E., Peace, A., Marzano, M., Scholefield, P. & Norton, L. (2010) Habitat Connectivity – Developing an Indicator for UK and Country Level Reporting. Phase 2: Production of the Indicator – Defra Contract WC0716. Forest Research & Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.
Trade journal and newsletter articles
Travis, J.M.J., Watts, K., Palmer, S.C.F., Aben, J., Synes, N.W. & Atkinson, N. (2017) Computer-aided landscape design: where is it best to plant trees outside woods? Wood Wise.
Moseley, D. and Watts, K. (2015). Green networks – using a landscape approach to plan green infrastructure for people and biodiversity. Town and Country Planning 84 (1), 34-38.
Watts, K. (2015) Going back in time to predict the future; using historic woodland creation to assess and benefit ecological networks. Biodiversity News, 70, 20–21.
Macgregor, N.A., Watts, K., Park, K., Fuentes-Montemayor, E. and Duffield, S. (2014). Studying past landscape change to inform future conservation. ECOS 35 (3/4), 53-59.
Watts, K. (2013) Using Historical Woodland Creation to Unpick the Ecological Networks Concept. Ecotype, Forest Research.
Scientific conferences: presentations or posters
Barbour, S., Bellamy, C., Burton, V., Moseley, D. & Watts, K. (2015) Ecological networks in practice: providing evidence for spatial planning and habitat management decisions with informative and intuitive indicators. Presentation at the ERT “Spatial Ecology and Conservation” Conference, 13th – 15th July 2015, University of Bristol, UK
Fuentes-Montemayor, E., Watts, K., Macgregor, N. & Park, K. (2015) Assessing the relative importance of local vs. landscape level actions to develop ecological networks. Presentation at the World Congress of the International Association for Landscape Ecology (IALE), Portland, Oregon, USA, 5th – 10th July 2015
Fuentes-Montemayor, E., Watts, K., Macgregor, N. & Park, K. (2015) Assessing the relative importance of local vs. landscape level actions to develop ecological networks. Presentation at the International Congress for Conservation Biology/European Congress for Conservation Biology, Montpellier, France, 2nd – 6th August 2015
Fuentes-Montemayor, E., Watts, K., Macgregor, N. & Park, K. (2015) Assessing the relative importance of local vs. landscape level actions to develop ecological networks. Poster presentation at the British Ecological Society Symposium on “The Conservation and Science/Policy Interface: Challenges and Opportunities” at the Zoological Society of London, Regent’s Park, London, 16th April 2015
Oliver, T.H., Smithers, R.J., Walmsley, C., Bailey, S., Beale, C. & Watts, K. (2015) A decision framework for considering climate change adaptation in biodiversity conservation planning. Poster presentation at the British Ecological Society Symposium on “The Conservation and Science/Policy Interface: Challenges and Opportunities” at the Zoological Society of London, Regent’s Park, London, 16th April 2015
Park, K. & Watts, K. (2015) The role of large-scale experimentation in applied ecology and conservation. Thematic session at the British Ecological Society Annual Meeting, 13 – 16 December 2015, Edinburgh International Conference Centre, Edinburgh, UK
Smithers, R.J. & Watts, K. (2015) Should we focus on biodiversity hotspots or biodiversity coldspots? Presentation at the ERT “Spatial Ecology and Conservation” Conference, 13th – 15th July 2015, University of Bristol, UK
Synes, N.W., Watts, K., Palmer, S.C.F., Barton, K., Osborne, P.E. & Travis, J.M.J. (2015) Climate change adaptation to assist range shifting: the key considerations for achieving long term conservation goals at a landscape-scale. Presentation at the World Congress of the International Association for Landscape Ecology (IALE), Portland, Oregon, USA, 5th – 10th July 2015
Synes, N.W., Watts, K., Palmer, S.C.F., Bocedi, G., Brown, C., Osborne, P.E. & Travis, J.M.J. (2015) Coupled socio-ecological systems: linking land-use decision making to local ecology. Presentation at the World Congress of the International Association for Landscape Ecology (IALE), Portland, Oregon, USA, 5th – 10th July 2015
Watts, K., Fuentes-Montemayor, E., Macgregor, N. & Park, K. (2015) Ecological networks: nice idea but do we actually know enough? Presentation at the ERT “Spatial Ecology and Conservation” Conference, 13th – 15th July 2015, University of Bristol, UK.
Bellamy, C., Watts, K. & Altringham, J. (2014) Using multi-scale habitat suitability modelling to inform bat conservtaion: examples from seven protected areas in northern England. Presentation at the ERT “Spatial Ecology and Conservation” Conference, 17th – 20th June 2014, University of Birmingham, UK
Synes, N., Watts, K., Barton, K., Palmer, S.C.F. & Travis, J.M.J. (2014) landscape-scale conservation: the role of space and time in the realisation of biodiversity benefits. Presentation at the ERT “Spatial Ecology and Conservation” Conference, 17th – 20th June 2014, University of Birmingham, UK
Watts, K., Ferryman, M., Fuentes-Montemayor, E., Park, K. & Macgregor, N. (2014) Using past woodland creation to learn lessons about designing ecological networks. Presentation at Forest Research Seminar Series, NRS Research Station, Edinburgh, 14th November 2014
Oliver, T.H., Smithers, R.J. & Watts, K. (2013) A decision framework for considering climate change adaptation in biodiversity conservation planning. Presentation at the Joint European Conference on “Climate Change and Nature Conservation in Europe – an ecological, policy and economic perspective” held by the German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN)
Smithers, R.J., Watts, K. & Oliver, T.H. (2013) A decision framework for considering climate change adaptation in biodiversity conservation planning. Presentation for the “climate change adaptation and landscape planning” symposium at the IALE European Congress, 9th – 12th September 2013, Manchester, UK.
Watts, K., Fuentes-Montemayor, E., Humphrey, J., Peredo-Alvarez, V. & Park, K. (2013) Using historical woodland creation to unpick the ecological networks concept. Presentation for the “ecological networks in real landscapes” symposium at the IALE European Congress, 9th – 12th September 2013, Manchester, UK
Stevenson, C.D., Nevin, O.T., Watts, K., Ramsey, A.D., Bailey, S. & Sinclair, B. (2012) Sequence Variation and GPS Telemetry Validation of Least Cost Modelling for the Invasive Grey Squirrel Sciurus carolinensis. Presentation for the 3rd European Congress of Conservation Biology, 28 August – 1 September 2012, Glasgow, UK.
Watts, K. (2011) Connectivity and landscape-scale conservation. Invited paper for Royal Society of Wildlife Trusts seminar on “Landscape ecology”, 28th September 2011, Shrewsbury, UK.
Tonti, D., Chirici, G., Estreguil, C., Oehmichen, K., Troeltzsch, K., Watts, K. & Marchetti, M. (2010) Modelling the impact of landscape fragmentation on forest ecological functionality. Book of abstracts of the IUFRO Landscape Ecology Working Group International Conference: Forest Landscape and Global Change – New Frontiers in Management, Conservation and Restoration, September 21-27, 2010, Bragança (Portugal) (eds J.C. Azevedo, M. Feliciano, J. Castro, & M.A. Pinto).
Watts, K. & Handley, P. (2010) Beyond corridors: Integrating the whole landscape into connectivity conservation. Invited paper for Thematic session on “Promoting adaptation of species to global environmental change”, British Ecological Society Annual Meeting, 7th – 9th September 2010, University of Leeds, UK.
Watts, K., Handley, P., Scholefield, P., Eycott, A.E. & Peace, A. (2010) Changes in the functional connectivity of woodland habitats across Great Britain between 1990 and 2007. Invited paper for Symposium on “Quantifying the effects of forest fragmentation: implications for landscape planners and resource managers”, IUFRO Landscape Ecology Working Group International Conference, 21st – 27th September 2010, Bragança, Portugal.