Keith Kirby

I wanted to be a forester, but forestry in the early seventies, seemed to be more economics than ecology, so after a degree in Agricultural and Forest Sciences at Oxford, I studied bramble growth in Wytham Woods for my D.Phil. This led me into various casual survey jobs before joining the Nature Conservancy Council in 1979 as a woodland ecologist. My role there was as a specialist in forestry and woodland work (science and policy) across NCC/English Nature/Natural England until 2012 when I retired back to Oxford.

Since then I have been a visiting researcher in the Department of Plant Sciences continuing my research interests particularly in long-term changes in the woodland ground flora. Other recent work has involved woodland grazing and rewilding and exploring the diaries of Charles Elton from 1942-1965. In my role with the agency and subsequently I have tried to publish in both peer-reviewed and more popular journals (such as British Wildlife and Quarterly Journal of Forestry), because on the whole it is the latter that practitioners actually read. Similarly, I have tried to build bridges by being an active member of both the British Ecological Society and the Institute of Chartered Foresters.

Contact details:


Tel: 0755 728 2711

Address: Department of Plant Sciences, South Parks Road, Oxford, OX1 3RB

Recent Publications:

Kirby, K.J., Goldberg, E.A. & Orchard, N. 2017. Long-term changes in the flora of oak forests and of oak:spruce mixtures following removal of conifers. Forestry 90, 136-147,  doi: 10.1093/forestry/cpw049

Verheyen, K., De Frenne, P., Baeten, L., et al. (2017). Combining community resurvey data to advance global change research. Bioscience 67,73-83

Kirby, K.J., Buckley, G.P. & Mills, J. (2017). Biodiversity implications of coppice decline, transformations to high forest and coppice restoration in British woodland. Folia Geobotanica 52, 5-13. DOI 10.1007/s12224-016-9252-1

Kirby, K.J. & Thomas, R.C. in press.  Restoration of broadleaved woodland under the 1985 Broadleaves Policy stimulates ground flora recovery at Shabbington Woods, southern England.  New Journal of Botany.

Kirby, K.J. 2017 One man and his log: Charles Elton’s pioneering studies of dead wood at Wytham Woods. Quarterly Journal of Forestry 111(1) 52-58.

Kirby, K.J. Walking back in Time: Conservation in Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire, 1942-65, from the Diaries of Charles Elton. Fritillary 7.

Kirby, K. J., Goldberg, E. A., Isted, R., Perry, S. C. & Thomas, R. C. (2016). Long-term changes in the tree and shrub layers of a British nature reserve and their relevance for woodland conservation management. Journal for Nature Conservation, 31, 51-60.

Kirby, K.J. (2016). The transition of Wytham Woods from a working estate to unique research site (1943-1965). Landscape History. 37, 79-92. DOI: 10.1080/01433768.2016.1249725

Mitchell, R.J., Hewison, R.L., Hester, A.J., Broome, A., Kirby, K.J. (2016) Potential impacts of the loss of Fraxinus excelsior due to ash dieback on woodland vegetation in Great Britain. New Journal of Botany, 6, 2-15, DOI:10.1080/20423489.2016.1171454

Kirby, K.J. (2016). Charles Elton and Wytham Woods. British Wildlife 27, 256-263.

Kirby, K.J. (2015) Changes in the vegetation of clear-fells and closed canopy stands in an English oak wood over a 30-year period.  New Journal of Botany, 5, 1-12

Plieninger, T., Hartel, T., Martín-López, B., Beaufoy, G., Bergmeier, E., Kirby, K., Montero, M. J., Moreno, G., Oteros-Rozas, E. & Van Uytvanck, J. 2015. Wood-pastures of Europe: Geographic coverage, social–ecological values, conservation management, and policy implications. Biological Conservation, 190, 70-79.

Kirby, K.J. (2015) What might a sustainable population of trees in wood-pasture sites look like? Hacquettia, 14, 43-52.

Bernhardt-Römermann, M., Baeten, L., Craven, D., et al. (2015), Drivers of temporal changes in temperate forest plant diversity vary across spatial scales. Global Change Biology, 21, 3726–3737.

Götmark, F., Kirby, K. & Usher, M. (2015). Strict reserves, IUCN classification, and the use of reserves for scientific research: a comment on Schultze et al. (2014). Biodiversity and Conservation, 3621-3625. DOI 10.1007/s10531-015-1011-8

Lorimer, J., Sandom, C., Jepson, P., Doughty, C.E., Barua, M. and Kirby, K.J. (2015). Rewilding: Science, Practice, and Politics. Annual Review of Environment and Resources 40, 39-62.

Kirby K J & Watkins, C (editors) (2015) Europe’s changing woods and forests: from wildwood to managed landscapes. CABI,Wallingford, UK.

Kirby, K.J.  2015.  Battling forestry and building consensus: woodland conservation post 1949.  In: Nature’s Conscience – The Life and Legacy of Derek Ratcliffe (eds. D.B.A. Thompson, H.H. Birks & H.J.B. Birks), Langford Press, pp. 359-372.

Willis, K.J. & Kirby, K.J. 2015. Biodiversity  in the green economy: what biodiversity do we need? In Biodiversity in the Green Economy, (eds A Gasparatos &K J Willis), Routledge, London, pp.19-31.