Scottish Alliance for Geoscience, Environment and Society

Prof. Chris Spray

Department / group: Centre for Water Law, Policy and Science (Centre for Environmental Change and Human Resilience)
Google Scholar URL: Not available

Research interests:

My research interests focus on wetland ecosystems, particularly how emerging research on wetland ecosystem services can be translated into policy, legislation and action on the ground. This includes bio-physical aspects such as flood risk management, water quality improvements, habitat restoration and conservation, as well as linked social systems. I work to investigate how to link an ecosystem services approach to operational practice, and the delivery of multiple benefits from and for the wetland environment and the stakeholders who depend on it. Within this, I am exploring how such issues are communicated to and from key stakeholders, including the role of non-governmental organisations in participatory management and stakeholder dialogue. Much of the focus of my work is on the Tweed, an UNESCO HELP Basin on the Scottish-English border, and I work closely with Tweed Forum in this respect.

Career history:

2009 – present: Chair of Water Science & Policy – UNESCO Centre for Water Law, Policy and Science, University of Dundee

2004-09: Director of Environmental Science – Scottish Environment Protection Agency

1991-2004: Director of Environment (previously Conservation Manager) – Northumbrian Water Group

1990-91: Conservation Manager – National Rivers Authority (Anglian region)

1984-89: Recreation & Conservation Manager – Anglian Water Authority

1978 -84: Post-doctoral Research Fellow, Zoology – Aberdeen University

1974-78: NERC PhD studentship in Zoology – Aberdeen University

Active research projects:


PI for the Eddleston Water Restoration project – a major Scottish Government funded project, which began with a scoping study in 2009 and, now in Phase II is undertaking a detailed investigation of the impact of restoring the Eddleston Water catchment to improve riverine habitats and reduce the risk of flooding to local communities. The Eddleston Water was so dramatically straightened and engineered some 200 years ago that it is currently classed as being of ‘bad’ ecological status, while the communities of Peebles and Eddleston now suffer from flooding from the river. Having installed a detailed hydrometric network and undertaken focussed pre-intervention ecological studies, the effects of using a variety of biophysical measures and interventions are being explored, and their costs and benefits measured, in terms of flood risk reduction, habitat improvement and ecosystem service delivery.

PI for current project on Land management for increased flood resilience – a 2 year Scottish Government funded project exploring the attitudes of land managers and owners to natural flood risk management measures, their introduction and implementation via existing or new policy instruments, and the impact on farm business plans.

PI for two recent connected Research projects for Scottish Government and SEPA on:

-Optimising Water Framework Directive River Basin Management Planning using an Ecosystem Services Approach (2013); and

-Implementation of Fully Integrated Catchment Management Planning (2012)

These provided syntheses, and recommendations for piloting an ecosystem approach within catchment management, based on an in-depth review of catchment organisations and practices across the UK, EU and globally through the UNESCO HELP River Basin network.

Chris has further extended this to be working with the Scottish Government using an Ecosystem Approach to take forward a national pilot of implementation of the Rural Land Use Strategy for Scotland, in the Borders Region (2013-2015)

Recent publications:

Vorstius, A.C. and Spray, C.J., 2015. A comparison of ecosystem services mapping tools for their potential to support planning and decision-making on a local scale. Ecosystem Services, 15, pp.75-83.

Werritty, A., Spray, C., Ball, T., Bonell, M., Rouillard, J., MacDonald, A., Comins, L. and Richardson, R., 2010, July. Integrated catchment management: from rhetoric to reality in a Scottish HELP basin. In Bhs Third International Symposium, Managing Consequences of a Changing Global Environment, Newcastle 2010. British Hydrological Society.

Cook, B.R., Atkinson, M., Chalmers, H., Comins, L., Cooksley, S., Deans, N., Fazey, I., Fenemor, A., Kesby, M., Litke, S., Marshall, D. and Spray, C., 2013. Interrogating participatory catchment organisations: Cases from Canada, New Zealand, Scotland and the Scottish–English Borderlands. The Geographical Journal, 179(3), pp.234-247.

Rieu-Clarke, A. and Spray, C., 2013. Ecosystem Services and International Water Law: Toward a More Effective Determination and Implementation of Equity. Potchefstroom Elec. LJ, 16, p.11.

Gilvear, D.J., Spray, C.J. and Casas-Mulet, R., 2013. River rehabilitation for the delivery of multiple ecosystem services at the river network scale. Journal of environmental management, 126, pp.30-43.

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