Tropical plant biodiversity and biogeography

Plant species and assemblages show distinct geographical distribution patterns. In my research I attempt to discern the biotic and abiotic factors as well as evolutionary processes determining these patterns, especially in the tropics. Specific research topics include:

  • Fern flora of Bolivia (with A.R. Smith, Berkeley, CA, USA).
  • Systematics and biogeography of Andean Acanthaceae, Araceae, Bromeliaceae, Cactaceae, and Palmae.
  • Ecology and biogeography of ferns in Costa Rica, Ecuador, Bolivia, Africa and the Mascarene Islands, Indonesia, and the Philippines.
  • Causes determining the lower elevational limits of plants in mountains.
  • Causes determining the upper timberline. 
  • Tropical deciduous forest ecology.
  • GIS modelling of the relationship of plant distributions and climate.
  • Influence of plant species richness on ecosystem function and stability.


Recent Publications

  • Assessing species saturation: conceptual and methodological challenges
    Olivares, I; Karger, DN; Kessler, M
    BIOLOGICAL REVIEWS, 93 (4):1874-1890; 10.1111/brv.12424 NOV 2018
  • Richness Patterns of Ferns Along an Elevational Gradient in the Sierra de Juarez, Oaxaca, Mexico: a Comparison with Central and South America
    Hernandez-Rojas, A; Kessler, M; Kromer, T; Carvajal-Hernandez, C; Weigand, A; Kluge, J
    AMERICAN FERN JOURNAL, 108 (3):76-94; 10.1640/0002-8444-108.3.76 JUL 2018
  • Ascogrammitis lehnertii (Polypodiaceae): A New and Dominant Understory-Species from a Diverse Community of Grammitid Ferns in the Andes of Ecuador
    Sundue, M; Olivares, I; Kessler, M
    SYSTEMATIC BOTANY, 43 (3):709-716; 10.1600/036364418X697427 JUL-SEP 2018
  • Prodromus of a fern flora for Bolivia. XXXV. Dryopteridaceae
    Kessler, M; Moran, RC; Mickel, JT; Matos, FB; Smith, AR
    PHYTOTAXA, 353 (1):1-114; 10.11646/phytotaxa.353.1.1 JUN 11 2018
  • Prodromus of a fern flora for Bolivia. XL. Polypodiaceae
    Smith, AR; Kessler, M; Leon, B; Almeida, TE; Jimenez-Perez, I; Lehnert, M
    PHYTOTAXA, 354 (1):1-67; 10.11646/phytotaxa.354.1.1 JUN 11 2018
  • A new scaly tree fern (Cyathea: Cyatheaceae) from Colombia
    Tejedor, A; Calatayud, G; Lehnert, M; Duque, WDR; Kessler, M
    BRITTONIA, 70 (2):166-172; JUN 2018
  • Phylogenetic systematics, morphological evolution, and natural groups in neotropical Phlegmariurus (Lycopodiaceae)
    Testo, Weston; Ollgaard, Benjamin; Field, Ashley; Almeida, Thais; Kessler, Michael; Barrington, David
    MOLECULAR PHYLOGENETICS AND EVOLUTION, 125 1-13; 10.1016/j.ympev.2018.03.016 AUG 2018
  • Assessing species saturation: conceptual and methodological challenges
    Olivares, Ingrid; Karger, Dirk N; Kessler, Michael
    Biological reviews of the Cambridge Philosophical Society 10.1111/brv.12424  2018-May-07
  • Phylogenetic classification of the world's tropical forests 
    Slik, J. W. Ferry; Franklin, Janet; Arroyo-Rodriguez, Victor; et al. 
  • A review of ecological gradient research in the Tropics: identifying research gaps, future directions, and conservation priorities
    Muenchow, Jannes; Dieker, Petra; Kluge, Jurgen; et al.
    Biodiversity and Conservation (27)2: 273-285 10.1007/s10531-017-1465-y  FEB 2018
  • Abundance and diversity of flower visitors on wild and cultivated cacao (Theobroma cacao L.) in Bolivia
    de Schawe, Claudia Chumacero; Kessler, Michael; Hensen, Isabell; et al.
    Agroforestry Systems 92(1):117-125 10.1007/s10457-016-0019-8 FEB 2018
  • Elevational Shifts in the Topographic Position of Polylepis Forest Stands in the Andes of Southern Peru 
    Toivonen, Johanna M.; Gonzales-Inca, Carlos A.; Bader, Maaike Y.; et al. 
    FORESTS, 9 (1): JAN 2018 Article (Details)
  • Prodromus of a fern flora for Bolivia. XXXIII. Blechnaceae 
    Smith, Alan R.; Kessler, Michael 
    PHYTOTAXA, 334 (2): 99-117 JAN 16 2018 Article (Details)
  • Prodromus of a fern flora for Bolivia. XX. Cyatheaceae 
    Lehnert, Marcus; Kessler, Michael 
    PHYTOTAXA, 334 (2): 118-134 JAN 16 2018 Article (Details)
  • Prodromus of a fern flora for Bolivia. XXXVII. Nephrolepidaceae 
    Smith, Alan R.; Kessler, Michael 
    PHYTOTAXA, 334 (2): 135-140 JAN 16 2018 Article (Details)
Kessler Michael

Dr. Michael Kessler
University of Zurich
Department of Systematic and Evolutionary Botany and Botanical Garden
8008 Zurich

Tel: +41 (0)44 634 84 32

Research topics

  • Plant taxonomy
  • Community ecology
  • Plant autecology
  • Macroecology
  • Conservation ecology
  • Tropical ecology



  • Plant-animal interactions
  • Pollination biology
  • Species distribution modelling
  • Biodiversity functionality
  • Evolutionary ecology