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Miss Sarah Watts

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Biological and Environmental Sciences Stirling

Miss Sarah Watts

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I am a plant ecologist focussing on upland vegetation, restoration ecology and applied science. I am currently researching my PhD entitled “Improving outcomes in montane woodland restoration”.

This PhD will aid the development of conservation management techniques to restore healthy and sustainable populations of montane trees in Britain. Focusing on Salix lapponum (downy willow) and Betula nana (dwarf birch), I am investigating the influence of abiotic and biotic environmental variables on growth parameters in restored montane scrub and exploring the potential for incorporating alternative NVC habitat types and mycorrhizal inoculation into planting schemes. I am also assessing the factors which could limit natural regeneration at montane scrub restoration sites, including seed production, dispersal and germination niches. This will form part of ongoing work to facilitate the long-term resilience and expansion of the treeline ecotone in Scotland.

I have a background in conservation management and field ecology, having been employed by the National Trust for Scotland (NTS) at Ben Lawers NNR since 2013. This work involves monitoring arctic-alpine species and plant communities, but also investigating the outcomes of restoration projects including tall herb and peatbog habitats. I have developed an interest in the population dynamics and impacts of climate change on rare high-altitude plants, in particular Sagina nivalis (snow pearlwort) and Saxifraga cernua (drooping saxifrage). While working at Ben Lawers I have gained extensive experience of montane scrub systems and upland woodland restoration, which the NTS have been pioneering for the last 30 years. This has enabled me to form the research questions central to my PhD.

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