Plant Ecology, Biogeography, Management and Use

As the late Frank White, one time curator of the Oxford herbaria, pointed out: Ecology, Taxonomy and Chorology (or biogeography) are highly interlinked disciplines, and ideally none of these would be studied in isolation. These days, we would add phylogenetics and bioquality research as research components fundamentally linked in with Frank White's triad.

Ecological work in the herbarium is often linked other these other aspects of plant biodiversity, going back to the Vegetation Map of Africa and the role of the herbarium in the Oxford Forestry Institute.

  • White. F., Dowsett-Lemaire, F., Chapman, J.D. (2001). Evergreen forest flora of Malawi. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew . ISBN 1 900347 97 0

  • Huxley, C.R., J.M.Lock & D.F. Cutler (eds). (1998). Chorology, Taxonomy and Ecology of the Floras of Africa and Madagascar. . From the Frank White memorial Symposium. Univ. Of Chicago Press.

  • White, F. (1983). The vegetation of Africa. UNESCO. Paris.

  • The Taxonomy, Ecology and Chorology of African Chrysobalanaceae (Excluding Acioa) (1976) Bulletin du Jardin botanique National de Belgique / Bulletin van de Nationale Plantentuin van BelgiĆ« Vol. 46, No. 3/4, pp. 265-350.

  • White. F. The taxonomy, ecology and chorology of African Ebenaceae 1: the Guineo-Congolian species. Bull.Jard.Bot.Nat.Belg. 48:245-358.

Ecological guilds

Forest management needs to integrate conservation with sustainable use. Bioquality hotspots are candidates for greater conservation effort, but these priorities should not dominate forest management plans. We also research the relationship between plant community composition and forest regeneration.

Regeneration work on Ghanaian forests in the 1990s led to a categorisation of all Ghanaian forest species into ecological guilds. These we still use regularly used today, when we want a first cut division of hundreds of plant species into major ecological divisions, e.g. to study the effects of forest disturbance on the locally useful flora.

  • Vaglio Laurin G, N. Puletti, W. Hawthorne, V.Liesenberg, P.Corona, D.Papale, Q.Chen, R.Valentini. (2016). Discrimination of tropical forest types, dominant species, and mapping of functional guilds by hyperspectral and simulated multispectral Sentinel-2 data. Remote Sensing of Environment 176: 163-176. doi:10.1016/j.rse.2016.01.017

  • Marshall, C.A, Hawthorne, W.D. (2012). Regeneration Ecology of the Useful Flora of the Putu Range Rainforest, Liberia. Economic Botany. 66 (4): pp 398-412. doi:10.1007/s12231-012-9217-0.

  • Hawthorne, W.D, Sheil, D, Agyeman, V.K, Abu, Juam M, Marshall, C.A.M. (2012). Logging scars in Ghanaian high forest: Towards improved models for sustainable production. Forest Ecology and Management. 271 (2): pp 27-36. doi:10.1016/j.foreco.2012.01.036

  • Hawthorne, W. D., C. A. M. Marshall, M. Abu Juam and V. K. Agyeman (2011). The Impact of Logging Damage on Tropical Rainforests, their Recovery and Regeneration. An Annotated Bibliography

  • Hawthorne, W.D. (1995). Ecological profiles of Ghanaian forest trees. Tropical Forestry Paper 29. doi:Oxford Forestry Institute, Dept. of Plant Sciences, South Parks Rd, Oxford OX1 3RB, UK.

  • Hawthorne, W.D. (1994). Fire and forest regeneration in Ghana. ODA Forestry Series 4.

  • Hawthorne, W.D. (1993). Forest regeneration after logging in Bia South GPR, Ghana . ODA Forestry Series 3.


In an era where functional ecology, ecosystem services and carbon sequestration are increasingly highlighted, studies on tree form and allometry are needed. Recent research on the impacts of logging, regeneration and tree allometry with which we have been involved include:

  • Amissah, L, Mohren, G.M.J, Bongers, F, Hawthorne, W.D, Poorter, L. (2014) Rainfall and temperature affect tree species distribution in Ghana Journal of Tropical Ecology.. doi:10.1017/S026646741400025X.

  • Maharjan, S.K, Poorter, L, Holmgren, M, Bongers, F, Wieringa, J.J, Hawthorne, W.D. (2011) Plant Functional Traits and the Distribution of West African Rain Forest Trees along the Rainfall Gradient Biotropica. doi:10.1111/j.1744-7429.2010.00747.x.

  • Bongers, F, Poorter, L, Hawthorne, WD, Sheil, D. (2009) The intermediate disturbance hypothesis applies to tropical forests, but disturbance contributes little to tree diversity Ecology Letters. 12 (8): pp 798-805. doi:10.1111/j.1461-0248.2009.01329.x.

  • Poorter, L, Hawthorne, W, Bongers, F, Sheil, D. (2008) Maximum size distributions in tropical forest communities: Relationships with rainfall and disturbance Journal of Ecology. 96 (3): pp 495-504. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2745.2008.01366.x.

  • Sheil, D, Salim, A, Chave, J, Vanclay, J, Hawthorne, W.D. (2006) Illumination-size relationships of 109 coexisting tropical forest tree species Journal of Ecology. 94 (2): pp 494-507. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2745.2006.01111.x.

  • Swaine, M.D, Hawthorne, W.D, Bongers, F, Toledo, Aceves M. (2005) Climbing plants in Ghanaian forests Chapter 6 In Forest Climbing Plants of West Africa: Diversity, Ecology and Management.

  • Bongers, F, Poorter, L, Hawthorne, W.D. (2004) The forests of Upper Guinea: gradients in large species composition Poorter L. et al. 2004.. doi:CABI Publishing, Oxford, UK.

Remote sensing and crown analysis

We are increasingly involved in research with remote sensing specialists, and are currently researching ways to make better use of these tools for bioquality and ecological assessment, towards an ever more efficient understanding of plant life on our planet. We are also interested in increasing the accuracy of automated species recognition from crowns in remote imagery, for use both in the UK and for species rich tropics.

  • Vaglio Laurin G, Hawthorne WD, Chiti T, Di Paola A, Cazzolla Gatti R, Marconi S, Noce S, Grieco E, Pirotti F, Valentini R. (2016). Does degradation from selective logging and illegal activities differently impact forest resources? A case study in Ghana. Early View (online: Jan 29, 2016) - doi: 10.3832/ifor1779-008

  • Vaglio Laurin G, N. Puletti, W. Hawthorne, V.Liesenberg, P.Corona, D.Papale, Q.Chen, R.Valentini, 2016. Discrimination of tropical forest types, dominant species, and mapping of functional guilds by hyperspectral and simulated multispectral Sentinel-2 data. Remeote Sensing of Environment 176: 163-176. doi:10.1016/j.rse.2016.01.017