Professor John Quinton


Research Overview

John is passionate about soil, the brown gold that underpins our very survival on the planet, but which most people take for granted.

He has spent the last 30 years working on understanding and predicting the soil erosion processes that degrade soil functions, soil monitoring, how we can protect soils better and how soils can be managed to mitigate flooding and the pollution of surface waters. He is a member of LEC's Sustaiable Soils Research Group.

Published research

His published work includes over 100 refereed journal papers (see link above), including one of the most cited papers on soil erosion describing the European Soil Erosion model (EUROSEM). More recent highly cites papers examine the global linkages between soil erosion and the cycling of nutrients and carbon, the effects of vegetation on soil physical properties, new methods for monitoring and tracing soil erosion and a new body of work exploring the lifespan of soils.

Liking to maintain an applied element to his research, John has been working on solutions to soil and water protection. These include an investigation into the impact of soil management on soil and nutrient losses and the use of wetlands to trap sediment before it reaches surface waters.

John has received funding for his work from:

  • the National Environmental Research Council (NERC),
  • the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC)
  • the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA)
  • the European Community

Current research

John’s current research projects include

  • the NERC /NSF funded Signals in the soil project focussing on understanding trajectories of soil change through new sensors, communication systems and machine learning
  • the ReDeal project working on the restoration of degraded grasslands in Africa
  • The H2020 funded SHUI project focused on improving soil and water management in Europe and China
  • The SOPLAS project investigating the fate and behaviour of micro and macro plastics in soil
  • UKRI Interdisciplinary Circular Economy Centre For Mineral-based Construction Materials


The PhD students he supervises work on a range of topics related to soil functioning, diffuse pollution, soil formation and soil degradation and you can meet the research group here


John is the Research Evaluation Framework 2021 lead for LEC. He has acted as a research evaluator and review panel member, both nationally and internationally and is currently Executive Editor of the European Geosciences Union’s open access journal SOIL.


John's teaching includes:

Outside interests

When he is not working on Soil Science John likes to deploy soil through the medium of paint (most of the earth pigments are derived from soil!). His paintings draw inspiration from the natural environment, and particularly the woods and mountains close to Lancaster.

Related content

See John’s video on Soil Security:

Selected Publications

Arable soil formation and erosion: a hillslope-based cosmogenic nuclide study in the United Kingdom
Evans, D., Quinton, J., Tye, A., Rodes, A., Davies, J., Mudd, S., Quine, T. 3/09/2019 In: SOIL. 5, 2, p. 253-263. 11 p.
Journal article

The impact of agricultural soil erosion on biogeochemical cycling
Quinton, J.N., Govers, G., Van Oost, K., Bardgett, R.D. 05/2010 In: Nature Geoscience. 3, 5, p. 311-314. 4 p.
Journal article

On the evaluation of soil erosion models: Are we doing enough?
Batista, P.V., Davies, J., Silva, M.L., Quinton, J.N. 1/10/2019 In: Earth-Science Reviews. 197, 17 p.
Journal article

Plant diversity and root traits benefit physical properties key to soil function in grasslands
Gould, I., Quinton, J.N., Weigelt, A., De Deyn, G.B., Bardgett, R. 09/2016 In: Ecology Letters. 19, 9, 10 p.

Keeping agricultural soil out of rivers: evidence of sediment and nutrient accumulation within field wetlands in the UK
Ockenden, M., Deasy, C., Quinton, J., Surridge, B., Stoate, C. 15/03/2014 In: Journal of Environmental Management. 135, p. 54-62. 19 p.
Journal article

Measurement of flood peak effects as a result of soil and land management, with focus on experimental issues and scale
Deasy, C., Titman, A., Quinton, J. 01/2014 In: Journal of Environmental Management. 132, p. 304-312. 9 p.
Journal article

High precision tracing of soil and sediment movement using fluorescent tracers at hillslope scale
Hardy, R., Quinton, J.N., James, M.R., Fiener, P., Pates, J.M. 1/04/2019 In: Earth Surface Processes and Landforms. 44, 5, p. 1091-1099. 10 p.
Journal article

Northumbrian Water Catchment Monitoring and Investigation Programme
11/10/2021 → 20/04/2022

Transforming Unsustainable management of soils in key agricultural systems in EU and China: developing an integrated platform of alternatives to reverse soil degradation. (TUdi)
01/07/2021 → 30/06/2025

"UKRI Interdisciplinary Circular Economy Centre For Mineral-based Construction Materials"
01/01/2021 → 31/12/2024

Detecting soil degradation and restoration through a novel coupled sensor and machine learning framework
31/01/2020 → 30/01/2023

Soil Hydrology research platform underpinning innovation to manage water scarcity in European and Chinese cropping systems
01/09/2018 → 31/08/2022

Q-NFM : Quantifying the likely magnitude of nature-based flood mitigation effects across large catchments
01/11/2017 → 31/07/2022

Piloting a Cost-Effective Framework for Monitoring Soil Erosion in England and Wales
01/06/2013 → 31/05/2016

Analysis and simulation of the long term/large scale interactions of C, N and P in UK land, freshwater and atmosphere
12/11/2012 → 11/11/2015

U.K. Natural Environment Research Council–Analytical Chemistry Trust Fund studentship
01/10/2012 → …

Implementing Component 2 of Demonstration Test Catchments
01/06/2012 → 30/09/2017

Diversity in Upland Rivers for Ecosystem Service Sustainability - DURESS
01/05/2012 → 30/06/2016

01/04/2008 → 30/09/2013

01/01/1900 → …

  • Improving global stewardship
  • Innovation for a better environment
  • Soil Plant and Land Systems
  • Sustainable Catchments
  • Understanding a changing planet