Dr. J. Leighton Reid

School of Plant and Environmental Sciences

As a restoration ecologist, Dr. Reid is focused on improving outcomes for society and nature in ecosystems that are recovering from disturbance. While ecological restoration is not a substitute for halting greenhouse gas emissions or preserving intact habitat, it is a complementary strategy that can help address the interrelated global challenges of climate change, mass extinction, and the erosion of natural capital. Dr. Reid and his lab group are most interested in questions about how and where ecological restoration can best address these challenges at regional, national, and global scales.

Dr. Reid’s research incorporates field techniques and statistical tools from community and landscape ecology. Dr. Reid has done fieldwork on the West Coast (California, Oregon), the Southeast (Arkansas, Georgia, Missouri, Tennessee, Virginia), Latin America (Costa Rica, Brazil, Ecuador), and Madagascar.


He has worked in temperate and tropical terrestrial ecosystems including grasslands, woodlands, and forests, and with a variety of organisms, including birds, bats, rodents, trees, herbaceous plants, and vascular epiphytes. Dr. Reid is also eager to collaborate with social scientists, economists, and remote sensing experts.

Some current questions in the Reid lab include:

  • What are the best practices for establishing and maintaining native grasslands in northern Virginia?
  • Can keystone fig trees be used to catalyze tropical forest recovery in Latin America?
  • What tree planting techniques are most effective for restoring rainforest in eastern Madagascar?
  • What soil and environmental processes limit the establishment of conservative forbs in restored Missouri woodlands?
  • How long do restored ecosystems persist and why do some persist much longer than others?

Before joining the faculty at Virginia Tech in 2019, Dr. Reid worked for five years as a postdoc and assistant scientist in the Center for Conservation and Sustainable Development at the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis, Missouri. He was also a postdoc at Oregon State University. Dr. Reid completed his PhD in the Environmental Studies Department at the University of California Santa Cruz and his BS at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee.


Email         Lab Website          Blog: Natural History of Ecological Restoration

Recent Relevant Publications

Google Scholar Profile

Holl, KD, JL Reid, RJ Cole, F Oviedo-Brenes, JA Rosales, RA Zahawi. 2020. Applied nucleation facilitates tropical forest recovery: Lessons from a 15-year study. Journal of Applied Ecology. DOI: 10.1111/1365-2664.13684

Fagan, ME, JL Reid, MB Holland, JG Drew, & RA Zahawi. 2020. How feasible are global forest restoration commitments? Conservation Letters 13:e12700. doi.org/10.1111/conl.12700

Reid, JL, NJ Holmberg, MA Albrecht, S Arango-Caro, O Hajek, Q Long, & J Trager. 2020. Annual floristic dynamics in a temperate woodland mosaic during a decade of ecological restoration. Natural Areas Journal 40:23-34.

Fagan, ME, JL Reid & RA Zahawi. 2019. Forests: Questioning carbon stores after restoration. Nature570:446.

Brancalion, PHS, A Niamir, E Broadbent, R Crouzeilles, FSM Barros, AM Almedya Zambrano, A Baccini, J Aronson, S Goetz, JL Reid, BBN Strassburg, S Wilson & R Chazdon. 2019. Global restoration opportunities in tropical rainforest landscapes. Science Advances 5: eaav3223.

Fernandez-Barrancos, EP, JL Reid & JS Hall. 2019. Lack of Araceae in young forests highlights the importance of mature forest conservation. Tropical Conservation Science 12:1-5.

Miandrimanana, C, JL Reid, T Rivoharison & C Birkinshaw. 2019. Planting position and shade enhance native seedling performance in forest restoration for an endangered Malagasy plant. Plant Diversity41:118-123.

Evans, JP, CA Oldfield, & JL Reid. 2019. Differential resistance to tree species loss between two dominant communities in a resilient southeastern landscape. Natural Areas Journal. 39:182-188.

Reid, JL. 2018. Restoration Ecology’s Silver Jubilee: Big time questions for restoration ecology.Restoration Ecology 26:1029-1031.

Reid, JL, ME Fagan, J Lucas, J Slaughter & RA Zahawi. 2018. The ephemerality of regenerating forests in southern Costa Rica. Conservation Letters12:e12607.

Holl, KD, JL Reid, F Oviedo-Brenes, A Kulikowski & RA Zahawi. 2018. Rules of thumb for predicting tropical forest recovery. Applied Vegetation Science 21:669-677.

Zahawi, RA & JL Reid. 2018. Tropical secondary forest enrichment with giant stakes of keystone fig species. Perspectives in Ecology and Conservation16:133-138.

Brancalion, PHS, C Bello, RL Chazdon, M Galetti, P Jordano, RAF Lima, A Medina, MA Pizo & JL Reid. 2018. Maximizing biodiversity conservation and carbon stocking in restored tropical forests.Conservation Letters 11:e12454.

Reid, JL, ME Fagan & RA Zahawi. 2018. Positive site selection bias in meta-analyses comparing natural regeneration to active forest restoration. Science Advances 4:eaas9143.Reid, JL & J Aronson. 2017. Ecological restoration in a changing biosphere. Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden 102: 185-187.

Reid, JL, S Wilson, G Bloomfield, M Cattau, ME Fagan, KD Holl & RA Zahawi. 2017. How long do restored ecosystems persist? Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden 102: 258-265.

Holl, KD, JL Reid, JM Chaves-Fallas, F Oviedo-Brenes & RA Zahawi. 2017. Local forest restoration strategies affect biodiversity recovery more strongly than does landscape forest cover. Journal of Applied Ecology 54: 1091-1099.

Hudson, LN et al. 2017. The database of the PREDICTS (Projecting Responses of Ecological Diversity in Changing Terrestrial Systems) Project. Ecology and Evolution. 7.1: 145-188.

Fernandez-Barrancos, EP, JL Reid & J Aronson. 2017. Tank bromeliad transplants as an enrichment strategy in southern Costa Rica. Restoration Ecology 25: 569-576.