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School of Geography

Lee Brown Professor Lee Brown

Contact details

Room 10.03 Garstang
School of Geography
University of Leeds
University Road
Leeds LS2 9JT   UK


+44 (0) 113 34 33302

Student hours:
Monday-Thursday 10:00am - 14:30pm please email to make an appointment

Work in progress

Research projects

 Arctic and alpine river ecosystems

A large proportion of my published and ongoing work relates to glacier-fed rivers. This work focuses predominantly on the effects of glacier retreat on aquatic biodiversity and river habitat dynamics, and has been undertaken in rivers around the world. The papers below give a flavour of this work.

Synthesis and review papers

Milner, A.M., Khamis, K., Battin, T.J., Brittain, J.E., Barrand, N.E., Füreder, L., Cauvy-Fraunie, S., Gíslason, G.M., Jacobsen, D., Hannah, D.M., Hodson, A.J., Hood, E., Lencioni, V., Ólafsson, J.S., Robinson, C.T., Tranter, M. & Brown, L.E. 2017. Glacier shrinkage driving global changes in downstream systems. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA. 114: 9770-9778

Fell, S.C., Carrivick, J.L. & Brown, L.E. 2017. The multitrophic effects of climate change and glacier retreat in mountain rivers. BioScience 67: 897–911

Jacobsen D; Milner AM; Brown LE; Dangles O (2012) Biodiversity under threat in glacier-fed river systems, Nature Climate Change, 2, pp.361-364. doi: 10.1038/nclimate1435

Aquatic biodiversity papers

Brown, L.E. Khamis, K., Wilkes, M., Blaen, P., Brittain, J.E., Carrivick, J.L., Fell, S., Friberg, N., Füreder, L., Gislason, G.M., Hainie, S., Hannah, D.M., James, W.H.M., Lencioni, V., Olafsson, J.S., Robinson, C.T., Saltveit, S.J., Thompson, C. & Milner, A.M. (2018) Functional diversity and community assembly of river invertebrates show globally consistent responses to decreasing glacier cover. Nature Ecology & Evolution doi:10.1038/s41559-017-0426-x

Brown LE; Milner AM (2012) Rapid loss of glacial ice reveals stream community assembly processes, Global Change Biology, 18, pp.2195-2204. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2486.2012.02675.x

Brown LE; Hannah DM; Milner AM (2007) Vulnerability of alpine stream biodiversity to shrinking glaciers and snowpacks, GLOBAL CHANGE BIOL, 13, pp.958-966. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2486.2007.01341.x

Milner AM; Robertson AL; Brown LE; Sønderland SH; Mcdermott M; Veal AJ (2011) Evolution of a stream ecosystem in recently deglaciated terrain, Ecology, 92, pp.1924-1935. doi: 10.1890/10-2007.1

Clitherow LR; Carrivick JL; Brown LE (2013) Food Web Structure in a Harsh Glacier-Fed River, PLoS ONE, 8, . doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0060899

Brown LE; Cereghino R; Compin A (2009) Endemic freshwater invertebrates from southern France: Diversity, distribution and conservation implications, BIOL CONSERV, 142, pp.2613-2619. doi: 10.1016/j.biocon.2009.06.009

River habitat papers

Carrivick JL; Geilhausen M; Warburton J; Dickson NE; Carver SJ; Evans AJ; Brown LE (2013) Contemporary geomorphological activity throughout the proglacial area of an alpine catchment, Geomorphology, 188, pp.83-95. doi: 10.1016/j.geomorph.2012.03.029

Dickson NE; Carrivick JL; Brown LE (2012) Flow regulation alters alpine river thermal regimes, Journal of Hydrology, 464-465, pp.505-516. doi: 10.1016/j.jhydrol.2012.07.044

Brown LE; Hannah DM; Milner AM; Soulsby C; Hodson AJ; Brewer MJ (2006) Water source dynamics in a glacierized alpine river basin (Taillon-Gabietous, French Pyrenees), Water Resources Research, 42, pp.1-12. doi: 10.1029/2005WR004268

Brown LE; Hannah DM; Milner AM (2006) Hydroclimatological influences on water column and streambed thermal dynamics in an alpine river system, J HYDROL, 325, pp.1-20. doi: 10.1016/j.jhydrol.2005.09.025


Peatland management effects on aquatic ecosystems

Peatland covers around 500 million hectares of global land surface, storing up to half the world's soil carbon. Poor management of these environments can result in vast environmental changes. Widespread management of UK peatlands, including artificial drainage and heather/grass burning, has resulted in significant changes in flow regimes, hydrochemistry and sediment fluxes of streams and rivers. Drain-blocking has also created thousands of new pools in the UK uplands. The effects of these management strategies on aquatic biological communities has been the focus of much of my recent research:

Brown, L.E., Ramchunder, S.J., Beadle, J.M. & Holden, J. (2016). Macroinvertebrate community assembly in pools created during peatland restoration. Science of the Total Environment 569-570: 361-372

Brown, L.E., Holden, J. & Palmer, S.M. 2016. Moorland vegetation burning debates should avoid contextomy and anachronism (2016). Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B 371: 20160432.

Beadle, JM, Brown, LE. & Holden, J. 2015. Biodiversity and ecosystem functioning in natural bog pools and those created by rewetting schemes. WIRES Water 2: 65-84. doi: 10.1002/wat2.1063

Ramchunder SJ; Brown LE; Holden J (2013) Rotational vegetation burning effects on peatland stream ecosystems, Journal of Applied Ecology, 50, pp.636-648. doi: 10.1111/1365-2664.12082

Brown LE; Johnston K; Palmer SM; Aspray KL; Holden J (2013) River ecosystem response to prescribed vegetation burning on Blanket Peatland., PLoS One, 8, pp.e81023. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0081023

Ramchunder SJ; Brown LE; Holden J (2012) Catchment-scale peatland restoration benefits stream ecosystem biodiversity, Journal of Applied Ecology, 49, pp.182-191. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2664.2011.02075.x

Ramchunder SJ; Brown LE; Holden J (2009) Environmental effects of drainage, drain-blocking and prescribed vegetation burning in UK upland peatlands, PROG PHYS GEOG, 33, pp.49-79. doi: 10.1177/0309133309105245


EMBER: Effects of Moorland Burning on the Ecohydrology of River Basins

I was the principle investigator on this 38 month NERC standard grant. the project has provided new scientific information to inform policy relevant to the practice of rotational heather/grass burning in the UK uplands. Four work packages examined: (i) soil hydrology, physical properties and water chemistry (led by co-investigator  Joseph Holden); (ii) stream hydrology and water quality (led by co-investigator Sheila Palmer); (iii) stream macroinvertebrate communities, and; (iv) the response of stream invertebrates and algae to controlled experimental manipulations of sediment concentration and water quality. The project had two postdoctoral research assistants: Dr Kerrylyn Johnston and Dr Catherine Wearing. A detailed report on the major findings was released in 2014 and can be accessed here. More detailed research papers are also available:

Brown LE; Palmer SM; Johnston K; Holden J (2015) Vegetation management with fire modifies peatland soil thermal regime, Journal of Environmental Management, 154, pp.166-176. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2015.02.037

Brown LE; Johnston K; Palmer SM; Aspray KL; Holden J (2013) River ecosystem response to prescribed vegetation burning on Blanket Peatland., PLoS One, 8, pp.e81023. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0081023 

Holden J; Wearing C; Palmer S; Jackson B; Johnston K; Brown LE (2013) Fire decreases near-surface hydraulic conductivity and macropore flow in blanket peat, Hydrological Processes, . doi: 10.1002/hyp.9875


Aquatic food webs

I have been involved in work on aquatic food webs in a variety of settings, from mesocosms looking at the effects of drought, glacier-fed rivers in the European Alps and various synthesis papers in between. Some of the major outputs so far include:

Lu, X., Gray, C., Brown, L.E., Ledger, M.E., Milner, A.M., Mondragon, R., Woodward, G. & Ma, A. (2016) Drought rewires the core of food webs. Nature Climate Change 6: 875-878

Khamis, K, Brown, LE, Hannah, DM and Milner, AM. 2015. Experimental evidence that predator range expansion modifies alpine stream community structure. Freshwater Science 34: 66-80
Ledger ME; Brown LE; Edwards FK; Milner AM; Woodward G (2013) Drought alters the structure and functioning of complex food webs, Nature Climate Change, 3, pp.223-227. doi: 10.1038/nclimate1684

Clitherow LR; Carrivick JL; Brown LE (2013) Food Web Structure in a Harsh Glacier-Fed River, PLoS ONE, 8, . doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0060899

Woodward G; Brown LE; Edwards FK; Hudson LN; Milner AM; Reuman DC; Ledger ME (2012) Climate change impacts in multispecies systems: Drought alters food web size structure in a field experiment, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 367, pp.2990-2997. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2012.0245

Brown LE; Edwards FK; Milner AM; Woodward G; Ledger ME (2011) Food web complexity and allometric scaling relationships in stream mesocosms: implications for experimentation., J Anim Ecol, 80, pp.884-895. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2656.2011.01814.x

Woodward G; Perkins DM; Brown LE (2010) Climate change and freshwater ecosystems: impacts across multiple levels of organization, PHILOS T R SOC B, 365, pp.2093-2106. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2010.0055

Ings TC; Montoya JM; Bascompte J; Blüthgen N; Brown LE; Dormann CF; Edwards F; Figueroa D; Jacob U; Jones JI; Laurisden RB; Ledger ME; Olesen JM; Van Veen FJ; Warren PH; Woodward G (2009) Ecological networks – beyond food webs, Journal of Animal Ecology, 78, pp.253-269.

Grants and prizes received

  • Klaar, M.J. & Brown, L.E., & Milner, A.M. Extreme floods and the ecological status of UK rivers: developing new tools to mitigate environmental change. NERC open CASE studentship with support from Environment Agency. NE/R007853/1
  • Brown, L.E. + 11 co-investigators. Euro-FLOW – A European training and research network for environmental FLOW management in river basins. Marie SkÅ‚odowska-Curie Actions Innovative Training Network (ITN). 2017-2021
  • Brown, L.E. & Fell, S.C. Climate change effects on glacial river ecosystem functioning. Interact Transnational Access fund, EU.
  • Brown, L.E. An Assessment of Evidence Supporting a Programme of Wetland Restoration Projects in the New Forest Site of Special Scientific Interest. Natural England [October 2016)
  • Quincey, D., Brown, L.E., Lovett, J., Evans, B., Haines, T.D. & Bates, L.A. HARVEST: High-mountain Asia - building Resilience to water Variability using Experiments, Surveys and accounts of Tradition. Global Challenges Research Fund. Nov 2016-2017
  • Brown, L.E. & Smith, M.W. Woody debris effects on upland river hydromorphological processes. NERC open CASE studentship with support from JBA Consulting. Oct. 2016-2020
  • Woodward….Brown… et al. Impacts of global warming in sentinel systems: from genes to ecosystems. NERC large grant NE/M020843/1. Jan 2016-2020.
  • Milner, A.M., Brown, L.E. & Klaar, M. Assessing the effects of EXtreme summer flooding on STREAM ecosystem successional processes (EXSTREAM). NERC Urgency Scheme Aug 2014-2015. NE/M017478/1
  • Brown, L.E. & Swindles, G. Peatland ecological and hydrological dynamics in the Arctic (PEATARC). International Network for Terrestrial Research and Monitoring in the Arctic (INTERACT). 2014
  • Palmer, S., Holden, J. & Brown, L.E. Impacts of wildfire on water quality; the Marsden moor case study. Yorkshire Water. October 2011-2013.
  • Brown, L.E., Holden, J., Armstrong, A. & Bates, A.J. The biodiversity of natural and artificial upland blanket peat bog pools. Esmée Fairbairn Foundation. Apr. 2011-Sept. 2012
  • Holden, J., Palmer, S. & Brown, L.E., Grayson, R. & Wearing, C. Monitoring water quality in Chellow raw waters - Woo Gill experimental catchment manipulation. Yorkshire Water and ARUP. Jan. 2011-Apr. 2013
  • Brown, L.E. Macroinvertebrate community structure and functional development in reedswamp habitat. Part funded (50%) PhD studentship. Freshwater Biological Association. Oct. 2010-2013
  • Johnson, K.L. & Brown, L.E. Catchment management influences on moorland stream biodiversity. MRF0610. Mar. 2010
  • Kay, P., Brown, L.E. & Hughes, S. Impacts of pharmaceuticals and personal care products on UK river ecosystems. NERC quota studentship fieldwork and exceptional consumables funding. Oct. 2009
  • Slack, R. & Brown, L.E. Developing the top 100 research questions with relevance to UK water policy. University of Leeds Enterprise and Knowledge Transfer Fund. September 2009.
  • Brown, L.E., Holden, J. & Palmer, S. EMBER – Effects of Moorland Burning on the Ecohydrology of River basins. NERC standard grant NE/G00224X/1. April 2009-June 2012
  • Ramchunder, S. & Brown, L.E. Benthic macroinvertebrate communities of Pinminnoch Burn, Pinminnoch Farm. Centre for Research into Environmental Health (CREH). April 2009.
  • Brown, L.E. Royal Society Overseas Travel Grant (R2008/R3) to attend the 2009 American Society of Limnology and Oceanography (ASLO) conference in Nice, France. January 2009
  • Hannah, D.M., Milner, A.M. & Brown, L.E. Hydroecological response of Svalbard river systems to climate change: integrated comparison of responses across a number of high latitude basins. European Centre for Arctic Environmental Research (ARCFAC-V: ARCFAC-026129-2008-72).
  • Carrivick, J.L., Brown, L.E., Arrell, K.E., Carver, S. & Evans, A. Modelling meltwater production, hydrogeomorphology and ecological processes in an alpine proglacial river system. European Fleet for Airborne Research (EUFAR). June 2008.
  • Carrivick, J.L., Arrell, K., Brown, L.E. & Carver, S. Integrated modelling of Arctic glacier runoff and floodplain dynamics. Quaternary Research Association. June 2008 
  • Brown, L.E. Detritus subsidies, biodiversity and ecosystem function in UK moorland streams. British Ecological Society small ecological project grant 1922 / 2273. June 2008
  • Brown, L.E., Ledger, M.E., Holden, J. & Mainstone, C. Patch-scale mesocosms for applied aquatic ecology research: An assessment of replicability, realism and issues for upscaling. UKPopNet pump priming call for early career researchers. May 2008. 
  • Brown, L.E., Carrivick, J.L., Arrell, K. Warburton, J. & Füreder, L. Hydrogeomorphological response of alpine glacier-fed rivers to meltwater flood-pulses. Royal Geographical Society – Institute of British Geographers (RGS-IBG) Geographical Fieldwork Grant [GFG39/08] with Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors. Mar. 2007 
  • Carrivick, J.L., Brown, L.E. & Arrell, K.E. Integrating research and teaching through online, on-demand access to telemetry-enabled field dataloggers. University of Leeds Academic Development Fund for Learning and Teaching. February 2008 – March 2009. 
  • Brown, L.E., Holden, J., Ledger, M.E. & Mainstone, C. Biodiversity and ecosystem function in changing moorland landscapes. NERC open CASE studentship with support from Natural England (NE/F/013663/1). October 2008 - October 2011. 
  • Brown, L.E., Carrivick, J.L. & Dickson, N. NERC quota studentship fieldwork and exceptional consumables funding (NE/F008619/1) Oct. 2007 
  • Brown, L.E. The effects of elevated organic matter loads on the invertebrates of upland streams. Natural England SAE03-02-051 
  • Brown, L.E. & Holden, J. Understanding moorland aquatic insect ecology to inform biodiversity conservation and sustainable land management. Peatscapes
  • Carrivick, J.L., Brown, L.E. & Arrell, K.E. Modelling Arctic glacier runoff and floodplain dynamics. Royal Geographical Society - Institute of British Geographers (RGS-IBG) geographical fieldwork grant. Award number: GFG 08/07 H.R. Mill Trust Fund. Mar. 2007. 
  • Carrivick, J.L., Brown, L.E. & Arrell, K.E. Quantitative modelling of a volcanically-influenced proglacial system - Kverkjokull, Iceland. Airborne Research and Survey Facility (ARSF) LiDAR flight. NERC award number IPY07/01. March 2007. 
  • Brown, L.E. Alpine river ecosystem response to shrinking glaciers and snowpacks. Royal Society overseas short visit grant to develop collaboration with Dr. Leopold Füreder, University of Innsbruck. Feb. 2007. 
  • Carrivick, J.L., Brown, L.E. & Arrell, K.E. Modelling Arctic glacier runoff and floodplain dynamics. Application for the Transnational Access Programme (ATANS) - Award number: FP6 506004. The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. Feb. 2007. 
  • Brown, L.E. & Heppenstall, A. Podcasting/vodcasting for Geographers and Environmental Scientists. Faculty of Environment Learning and Teaching Quality Enhancement Fund. Jan. 2007. 
  • Carrivick, J.L., Brown, L.E. & Arrell, K.E. Virtual field course linked to Level 3 student research module, New Zealand. Faculty of Environment Learning and Teaching Quality Enhancement Fund. Jan. 2007. 
  • Brown, L.E. European Geophysical Union (EGU) award to attend the April 2007 EGU conference in Vienna, Austria, based on submitted abstract. Dec. 2006. 
  • Holden, J., Brown, L.E. & Ramchunder, S. NERC CASE studentship fieldwork and exceptional consumables funding (NER/S/A/2006/14151) Sept. 2006 
  • Holden, J., Brown, L.E. & Ramchunder, S. Yorkshire Water CASE studentship fieldwork funding. Sept. 2006. 
  • Milner, A.M., Brown, L.E. & Robertson, A. The influence of major FLOOD disturbance on River EcoSystem Evolution Trajectories (FLOODRESET) in recently deglaciated terrain. NERC urgency award number NE/E003729/1. August 2006. 
  • Brown, L.E. Impact of reservoir releases on river ecology. Yorkshire Water. July 2006. 
  • Brown, L.E. Royal Society Conference Grant (R2006/R1) - to attend the 2006 North American Benthological Society (NABS) Conference in Anchorage, Alaska. May 2006 
  • Brown, L.E. British Hydrological Society (BHS) travel award - to attend the 2006 NABS Conference in Anchorage, Alaska. April 2006. 
  • Brown, L.E. NABS President's Award - to attend the 2004 NABS Conference in Vancouver, Canada, based on an extended abstract. April 2004. 
  • Brown, L.E. British Hydrological Society (BHS) travel award - to attend the 2004 NABS Conference in Vancouver, Canada. April 2004. 
  • Brown, L.E. BHS travel award - to attend the 2004 BHS International conference in London. April 2004. 
  • Milner, A.M., Hannah, D.M. & Brown, L.E. NERC Studentship overseas fieldwork funding. NERC Award number NER/S/A/2001/05984. October 2001. 
  • Brown, L.E. The David Kay Award for highest mark in Level 3 individual research project, School of the Environment, University of Leeds, 2001: Benthic macroinvertebrate community recovery following mine drainage remediation. June 2001.