Heather Wood

Heather Wood


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Works at Department of Physical Geography
Visiting address Svante Arrhenius väg 8
Postal address Inst för naturgeografi 106 91 Stockholm

About me

Originally from Northern Ireland, I am an ecologist living In Sweden.  My background is originally in botany but whilst working as a consultant in the UK I developed a broad interest in ecology and sustainability. I have over ten years experience working with a broad range of species groups including mammals, herpetofauna and invertebrates. I've also worked in botanical museums both in the UK and Sweden and I'm keen to promote and utilise the wealth of information stored in these institutions.

Now I've been drawn into the fascinating world of bats. Given that they represent the largest group of living animals on the earth it is surprising and concerning that they have been historically neglected in ecological research. My aim is to explore their world, understand their role in our ecosystems and help in their conservation. 


I primarily teach on the Master Program in Landscape Ecology where I assist in labs on statistics and GIS and supervise end of course projects.  I also teach at undergraduate level on an online Biogeography course and assist in lecturing in Physical Geography.


My PhD explores the effects of climate and landscape change on bats. Through the use of a combination of historical and current data on climate, landscape composition and bat distributions, I aim to identify the key drivers of bat diversity in Sweden. Ultimately the project aims to model future bat distributions under various climate and landscape change scenarios. I am also interested more generally in the field of Soundscape Ecology and its use in Citizen Science and as a conservation tool.

I also assist on the project SmåLöv. This project studies the effects of spatio-temporal landscape dynamics on biodiversity in deciduous forest patches in Swedish agricultural landscapes. It assesses relations between landscape history, soil conditions, vascular plant vegetation and invertebrates.


A selection from Stockholm University publication database
  • 2017. Heather Wood, Regina Lindborg, Simon Jakobsson. Biological Conservation 210, 60-71

    The European Union's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) recommends subsidies are only granted for wood-pastures with < 100 trees/ha. This guidance exists despite these habitats being among the most biodiverse in boreal Europe and currently under threat due to land conversion. Bats are important bio-indicators of agricultural landscapes, but bat diversity has not explicitly been studied in relation to this policy. We investigate how bat activity, foraging, species richness and functional groups are affected in twenty-six wood-pastures along a gradient of tree density, from open to dense. In parallel, open fields and deciduous forests were sampled and the effect of the surrounding landscape configuration was explored. Our results show a consistent increase in total bat activity, foraging activity and species richness within wood-pastures along the tree density gradient. We find optimal tree densities within wood-pastures are higher than values reported in previous studies, and suggest thresholds might depend on the landscape context. Shrub density was a strong predictor of total bat activity and foraging; whilst structural variation of tree size in wood-pastures was most strongly correlated with species richness. We show that wood-pastures are an important habitat and in comparison to forests they contribute to higher bat species richness and activity levels. Interestingly, higher activity levels of forest feeding specialists were observed in wood-pastures compared to forests. At the landscape level, amount of water in the landscape was the strongest predictor of bat activity whilst deciduous forest mostly influenced foraging activity. This study demonstrates that tree density within wood-pastures is not a limiting factor of bat activity and foraging and that other habitat and landscape parameters are important. Thereby focusing solely on tree density limits will not help to promote the ecological requirements for bats. Instead we suggest that a results based approach to CAP payments would be preferable.

  • Article HistMapR
    2017. Alistair G. Auffret (et al.). Methods in Ecology and Evolution 8 (11), 1453-1457

    Habitat destruction and degradation represent serious threats to biodiversity, and quantification of land-use change over time is important for understanding the consequences of these changes to organisms and ecosystem service provision. Comparing land use between maps from different time periods allows estimation of the magnitude of habitat change in an area. However, digitizing historical maps manually is time-consuming and analyses of change are usually carried out at small spatial extents or at low resolutions. HistMapR contains a number of functions that can be used to semi-automatically digitize historical land use according to a map's colours, as defined by the RGB bands of the raster image. We test the method on different historical land-use map series and compare results to manual digitizations. Digitization is fast, and agreement with manually digitized maps of around 80-90% meets common targets for image classification. We hope that the ability to quickly classify large areas of historical land use will promote the inclusion of land-use change into analyses of biodiversity, species distributions and ecosystem services.

Show all publications by Heather Wood at Stockholm University

Last updated: August 16, 2019

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