Zarah Pattison


Giant knotweed patch along the River Teith, Scotland

PhD Research Student

University of Stirling, Scotland (November 2012 – present)

Contact: via email or Twitter @ZarahPattison

Visit University of Stirling page here


MRes. in Ecology and Environmental Biology– Royal Holloway University of London (2011-2012)
BSc. (Hons.) Ecology and the Environment – Royal Holloway University of London (2008-2011)


My main research interest lies in invasive plant ecology. I am particularly interested in how invasive non-native plant species become so successful within their native range and how they impact native plant communities.

The comparative ecology and effects on native flora of riparian, invasive alien plants, and their response to changing flow regimes.

Biological invasions pose a major threat to native biodiversity. Riparian habitats are particularly vulnerable to invasion by invasion alien plant species (IAPs), as they are dynamic and frequently disturbed. Riparian plant species composition is driven in part by a combination of flow and geomorphological factors that can influence the dominance of species with different life history traits. Increasing evidence suggests that climate is changing in response to anthropogenic activity and that this is translated into effects on river flows. The increased frequency of high-flow events occurring as a result of climate change, has the potential to greatly affect the dispersal and success of invasive plant species. Rivers in the west of Scotland have increased in mean flow and have experienced a greater frequency of high flows since the 1970’s. It is predicted that average river flows and the frequency of high flow events will continue to increase in Scotland.

My research aims to address the comparative ecology of several riparian, invasive alien plant species (IAPs), namely Impatiens glandulifera, Fallopia japonica, Heracleum mantegazzianum and Mimulus guttatus, and their response to climate-induced changes in flow regimes. A range of rivers that vary in flow regime, including those that are regulated by dams or reservoirs, for water storage or hydro-electric power, have been used in this study. Vegetation surveys will be conducted at a much finer scale than those hitherto used in most river survey work and will thus allow the possible effects of IAPs to be resolved at different spatial scales. Germination trials with be used to assess the degree to which upstream dispersal of propagule (seeds and vegetative fragments) contributes to the existing vegetation. As well as population genetics methods using microsatellite markers to assess the genetic diversity of I. glandulifera along these varying river systems.

Supervisors: Dr. Nigel Willby (University of Stirling), Dr. Mario Vallejo-Marin (University of Stirling) and Prof. Phil Boon (SNH)

Funding: Scottish Natural Heritage and the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency

Soil cores collected from the 20 river bank field sites in the initial stages of experimental setup and after 3 months of growth

Soil cores collected from the 20 river bank field sites in the initial stages of experimental setup and after 3 months of growth

Blogs on Sti-cs

There’s no place like your field site home…

All’s fair in the invasion war


Pattison, Z., Rumble, H., Tanner. R., Jin, J. & Gange, A.C. (2014). Multiple plant-soil feedbacks of the invasive Impatiens glandulifera influence soil and foliar microbial communities (under review).

A bank of the River Earn invaded by Impatiens glandulifera

A bank of the River Earn invaded by Impatiens glandulifera

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