Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford

Dr Dave Favis-Mortlock


Research Groups

Dr Dave Favis-Mortlock

Honorary Research Associate



I'm a Senior Visiting Research Associate at the ECI; and a modeller, interested in approaches to — and implications of — all kinds of environmental modelling.

My research roots are in geomorphology: specifically, modelling soil erosion by water. This has led me to work on the impacts of changing climate and land use on erosion; self-organizing systems approaches to modelling erosion; and evaluation of erosion models.

I obtained an undergraduate degree in Environmental Sciences from Lancaster University. Then following a period in commercial computing and as a musician, I began my doctoral research at the University of Brighton, also co-publishing some of the first studies on the impacts of future climate change on erosion. In 1992, I moved to Oxford to begin work as a researcher at what was then called the Environmental Change Unit. Then in 1995 I built upon my thesis work to organise an evaluation of erosion models for the Soil Erosion Network of GCTE (Global Change and Terrestrial Ecosystems) Focus 3. This included a NATO Advanced Research Workshop in Oxford.

Perhaps the most novel research that I've done so far came out of a visit to the US Department of Agriculture's National Soil Erosion Laboratory in 1996. I'd been wondering about alternative approaches to erosion modelling. Current erosion models are complicated things, but are rather still weak at predicting where erosion will occur. Could it be that nature takes a much simpler approach? I started from the idea that erosional channels compete for runoff, just as living creatures compete for resources, and developed a self-organizing systems approach ('RillGrow') to modelling the spatial patterns of erosion by water. Initial results were very encouraging, and led to funding from the Natural Environment Research Council to develop the approach. Work on RillGrow, to enable it to be applied to larger areas, is ongoing.

Following ten years as a lecturer at Queen's University Belfast, in 2011 I returned to the ECI.

Recent publications include:

  • Boardman, J. and Favis-Mortlock, D.T. (in press).The significance of drilling date and crop cover with reference to soil erosion by water, with implications for mitigating erosion on agricultural land in south east England. Soil Use and Management
  • Favis-Mortlock, D.T. (2013). Systems and Complexity in Geomorphology. Chapter 1.16 in Treatise on Geomorphology (volume 1), Elsevier.
  • Favis-Mortlock, D.T. (2013). Non-Linear Dynamics, Self-Organization, and Cellular Automata Models. In, Wainwright, J. and Mulligan, M. (eds). Environmental Modelling: Finding Simplicity in Complexity (second edition). Wiley, Chichester.
  • Favis-Mortlock, D.T. (2012). Erosion by Water: Accelerated. In, Jorgensen. S.E. (ed.) Encyclopedia of Environmental Management, Taylor and Francis.
  • Mullan, D., Favis-Mortlock, D.T. and Fealy, R. (2012). Modelling the impacts of climate change on future rates of soil erosion: addressing key limitations. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology 156, 18-30
  • Mullan, D.J., Fealy, R. and Favis-Mortlock, D.T. (2012). Developing site-specific future temperature scenarios for Northern Ireland: a statistical downscaling approach. International Journal of Climatology 32(13), 2007-2019.
  • Favis-Mortlock, D.T. and Mullan, D. (2011). Soil erosion by water under future climate change. In Shukla, M. (ed.) Soil Hydrology, Land Use and Agriculture: Measurement and Modelling, CAB International. pp 384-414.
  • Mullan, D. and Favis-Mortlock, D.T. (2011). Managing soil erosion: a case study from Ireland. Geography Review 24(4), 24-26.
  • Elliott, S. and Favis-Mortlock, D.T. (2009). Climate change and crops. Geography Review 23(2), 30-34.
  • Crawford, T., Betts, N.B. and Favis-Mortlock, D.T. (2007). Issues of GCM grid box choice and predictor selection associated with statistical downscaling of daily precipitation over Northern Ireland. Climate Research 34(2), 145-160.
  • Jetten, V. and Favis-Mortlock, D.T. (2006). Modelling soil erosion in Europe. In, Boardman, J. and Poesen, J. (eds). Soil Erosion in Europe, Wiley, Chichester. pp 696-716.
  • Favis-Mortlock, D.T. (2006). Ireland. In, Boardman, J. and Poesen, J. (eds). Soil Erosion in Europe, Wiley, Chichester. pp 455-462.
  • Eadie, C. and Favis-Mortlock, D.T. (2006). River flows and power laws: a study from Northern Ireland. Geography Review 20(2), 33-38.
  • Favis-Mortlock, D.T. (2004). Rills. In, Goudie, A.S. (ed.), IAG Encyclopedia of Geomorphology, Routledge, London.
  • Crawford, T. and Favis-Mortlock, D.T. (2004). Feast or famine - rainfall variability in northern Burkina Faso. Geography Review 18(2), 32-35.
  • Favis-Mortlock, D.T. and De Boer, D. (2003). Simple at heart? Landscape as a self-organizing complex system. In, Trudgill, S.T. and Roy A. (eds). Contemporary Meanings in Physical Geography. Arnold, London, pp 127-171.
  • Lascelles, B., Favis-Mortlock, D.T., Parsons, A.J. and Boardman, J. (2002). Automated digital photogrammetry — a valuable tool for small-scale geomorphological research for the non-photogrammetrist? Transactions in GIS 6(1), 5-15.
  • Favis-Mortlock, D.T. (2002). Erosion by Water. In, Lal, R. (ed.). Encyclopedia of Soil Science, Marcel Dekker, New York. pp. 452-456.
  • Guerra, A.J.T. and Favis-Mortlock, D.T. (2002). Movimentos de massa em Pétropolis — Rio de Janeiro/Brasil. In, Lugo Hubp, J. and Inbar, M. (eds). Desastres Naturales en el Siglo XX América Latina, Fondo de Cultura Economica, Mexico. pp. 447-460.
  • Smyth, A., Montgomery, W.I., Favis-Mortlock, D.T. and Allen, S. (2002) (Editors). Implications of Climate Change for Northern Ireland: Informing Strategy Development. Stationery Office, Belfast, Northern Ireland. 176 pp. Final Report for Department of Environment (Northern Ireland)/Scotland and Northern Ireland FoRUM for Environmental Research.
  • Favis-Mortlock, D.T., Boardman, J. and MacMillan, V.J. (2001). The limits of erosion modeling: why we should proceed with care. In, Harmon, R.S. and Doe III, W.W. (eds). Landscape Erosion and Evolution Modeling, Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishing, New York, pp. 477-516.
  • Lorenzoni, I., Jordan, A., Favis-Mortlock, D.T., Viner, D. and Hall, J. (2001). Developing sustainable practices to adapt to the impacts of climate change: a case study of agricultural systems in eastern England (UK). Regional Environmental Change 2, 106-117.
  • Favis-Mortlock, D.T. and Guerra, A.J.T. (2000). The influence of global greenhouse-gas emissions on future rates of soil erosion: a case study from Brazil using WEPP-CO2. In, Schmidt, J. (ed). Soil Erosion: Application of Physically Based Models, Springer-Verlag. pp. 3-31.
  • Favis-Mortlock, D.T., Boardman, J., Parsons, A.J. and Lascelles, B. (2000). Emergence and erosion: a model for rill initiation and development. Hydrological Processes 14(11-12), 2173-2205.
  • Lascelles, B., Favis-Mortlock, D.T., Parsons, A.J. and Guerra, A.J.T. (2000). Spatial and temporal variation in two rainfall simulators: implications for spatially explicit rainfall simulation experiments. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms 25(7), 709-721.
  • Lorenzoni, I., Jordan, A., Viner, D., Favis-Mortlock, D.T. and Hall, J. (2000). Sunflowers or sugar beet? Potential impacts of climate change on agriculture in Norfolk, UK. ECOS 21(3/4), 47-53.