Dr Mark Ledger

Dr Mark Ledger

School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences
Senior Lecturer in Ecology

Contact details

School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Mark is an ecologist researching environmental change in freshwaters. His research group is focused on understanding how environmental stressors and climate change, especially extreme climatic events such as floods, droughts and heat waves, affect the structure and functioning of aquatic ecosystems. His group works empirically across a range of spatial and temporal scales, from laboratory microcosms to natural environmental gradients in real ecosystems, and has developed new state-of-the-art mesocosm facilities which enable novel interdisciplinary experimental approaches to be applied in areas of water science usually characterised by phenomenological study. Mark currently leads several NERC-funded research projects and supports a number of doctoral researchers and postdoctoral fellows. He also works actively with a growing network of colleagues in the UK and overseas.


Mark has developed a broad teaching portfolio across the Geography and Environmental Science programmes, at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. He teaches in the following areas:

  • Tutorials and fieldwork
  • Ecological systems
  • Techniques in physical geography
  • Research methods for dissertations
  • River ecology
  • Advances in water science
  • Research and management of rivers
  • River environmental management dissertation
  • Research project supervision
  • Freshwater environments

Postgraduate supervision

Mark Ledger’s research in freshwater systems encompasses community ecology, biodiversity and environmental change. His research group works at a range of spatial and temporal scales, utilising laboratory microcosms, field mesocosms and natural environmental gradients in real ecosystems. Their current research has four overlapping foci: disturbance ecology; food webs, species interactions, particularly plant-herbivore dynamics, and stressor effects on biodiversity and ecosystem function. Ongoing research includes:

Disturbance, biological legacies and community development
Disturbance and dynamic stability
Environmental change and freshwater food webs
Model food webs: replicability and realism
Interaction strengths within the algae-herbivore sub-web
Environmental change, aquatic biodiversity and species interactions

He welcomes enquiries from prospective students in these areas.

Other activities

  • Director, Birmingham ECOLAB facility
  • Programme Lead, Environmental Science
  • Treasurer, Aquatic Ecology Group of the British Ecological Society
  • Assessor, Australian Research Council
  • Member, Natural Environment Research Council Peer Review College
  • Associate Editor, Ecology and Evolution
  • Guest Editor, Freshwater Biology special issue: Extreme events in running waters


Recent publications


White, JC, Aspin, TWH, Picken, JL, Ledger, ME, Wilby, RL & Wood, PJ 2022, 'Extreme low-flow effects on riverine fauna: a perspective on methodological assessments', Ecohydrology, vol. 15, no. 5, e2422. https://doi.org/10.1002/eco.2422

Thornhill, I, Friberg, N, Batty, L, Thamia, V & Ledger, ME 2021, 'Leaf breakdown rates as a functional indicator were influenced by an invasive non-native invertebrate in urban ponds', Ecological Indicators, vol. 124, 107360. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolind.2021.107360

Hill, MJ, White, JC, Biggs, J, Briers, RA, Gledhill, D, Ledger, ME, Thornhill, I, Wood, PJ & Hassall, C 2021, 'Local contributions to beta diversity in urban pond networks: Implications for biodiversity conservation and management', Diversity and Distributions, vol. 27, no. 5, pp. 887-900. https://doi.org/10.1111/ddi.13239

Arias Font, R, Khamis, K, Milner, S, Sambrook-Smith, G & Ledger, M 2021, 'Low flow and heatwaves alter ecosystem functioning in a stream mesocosm experiment', Science of the Total Environment, vol. 777, 146067. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2021.146067

Leigh, C, Aspin, TWH, Matthews, TJ, Rolls, RJ & Ledger, ME 2019, 'Drought alters the functional stability of stream invertebrate communities through time', Journal of Biogeography, vol. 46, no. 9, pp. 1988-2000. https://doi.org/10.1111/jbi.13638

Aspin, TWH, Hart, K, Khamis, K, Milner, AM, O'callaghan, MJ, Trimmer, M, Wang, Z, Williams, GMD, Woodward, G & Ledger, ME 2019, 'Drought intensification alters the composition, body size, and trophic structure of invertebrate assemblages in a stream mesocosm experiment', Freshwater Biology, vol. 64, no. 4, pp. 750-760. https://doi.org/10.1111/fwb.13259

Aspin, T, Khamis, K, Matthews, T, Milner, A, O'Callaghan, M, Trimmer, M, Woodward, G & Ledger, M 2019, 'Extreme drought pushes stream invertebrate communities over functional thresholds', Global Change Biology, vol. 25, no. 1, pp. 230-244. https://doi.org/10.1111/gcb.14495

Hill, MJ, Biggs, J, Thornhill, I, Briers, RA, Ledger, M, Gledhill, DG, Wood, PJ & Hassall, C 2018, 'Community heterogeneity of aquatic macroinvertebrates in urban ponds at a multi-city scale', Landscape Ecology, vol. 33, no. 3, pp. 389-405. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10980-018-0608-1

Aspin, TWH, Matthews, TJ, Khamis, K, Milner, AM, Wang, Z, O'callaghan, MJ & Ledger, ME 2018, 'Drought intensification drives turnover of structure and function in stream invertebrate communities', Ecography, vol. 41, no. 12, pp. 1992-2004. https://doi.org/10.1111/ecog.03711, https://doi.org/10.1111/ecog.03711

Brown, L, Aspray, K, Ledger, M, Mainstone, C, Palmer, S, Wilkes, M & Holden, J 2018, 'Sediment deposition from eroding peatlands alters headwater invertebrate biodiversity', Global Change Biology. https://doi.org/10.1111/gcb.14516

Thornhill, I, Batty, L, Hewitt, M, Friberg, NR & Ledger, M 2018, 'The application of graph theory and percolation analysis for assessing change in the spatial configuration of pond networks', Urban Ecosystems, vol. 21, no. 2, pp. 213-225. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11252-017-0724-8

Thornhill, IA, Biggs, J, Hill, MJ, Briers, R, Gledhill, D, Wood, PJ, Gee, JHR, Ledger, M & Hassall, C 2018, 'The functional response and resilience in small waterbodies along land-use and environmental gradients', Global Change Biology, vol. 24, no. 7, pp. 3079-3092. https://doi.org/10.1111/gcb.14149

Thornhill, I, Batty, L, Friberg, N, Death, R & Ledger, M 2017, 'Local and landscape scale determinants of biodiversity and conservation value of macroinvertebrate assemblages in ponds across an urban land-use gradient', Biodiversity and Conservation, vol. 26, no. 5, pp. 1065–1086. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-016-1286-4

Aspray, KL, Holden, J, Ledger, ME, Mainstone, CP & Brown, LE 2017, 'Organic sediment pulses impact rivers across multiple levels of ecological organization', Ecohydrology, vol. 10, no. 6, e1855. https://doi.org/10.1002/eco.1855


Aspin, T, Khamis, K, Matthews, T, Williams, G, Windsor, FM, Woodward, G & Ledger, M 2023, 'Extra terrestrials: drought creates niche space for rare invertebrates in a large-scale and long-term field experiment', Biology Letters, vol. 19, no. 11, 20230381. https://doi.org/10.1098/rsbl.2023.0381

View all publications in research portal