Plant conservation genetics and applied molecular ecology

Humans continue to modify landscapes at an alarming rate. Major consequences of this are the fragmentation of habitats into islands within highly complex matrices. In the temperate regions this has been a gradual process, but in the tropics this is happening at unprecedented rates. For plant species, and especially tropical trees the consequence of fragmentation can be highly variable and depend on their reproductive ecology, their mutualism and their mating system. Understanding how these factors interact to influence a species vulnerability to disturbance is essential to management of resilient landscapes. My research aims to advance our understanding of how habitat degradation, especially fragmentation impacts on plant biodiversity. I divide my research into three core areas, plant reproduction and the genetic consequences of habitat fragmentation, trees species coexistence in tropical forest and tropical forest restoration. Across all of these themes I apply a combination of molecular and traditional ecological approaches to address fundamental research questions, applicable to the sustainable management of natural systems.


Recent Publications

  • Exploring the role of genetic diversity and relatedness in tree seedling growth and mortality: A multispecies study in a Bornean rainforest
    de Morais, Claire Tito; Kettle, Chris J.; Philipson, Christopher D.; Maycock, Colin R.; Burslem, David F. R. P.; et al.
    Journal Of Ecology  DOI: 10.1111/1365-2745.13331, FEB 2020
  • Are patterns of fine-scale spatial genetic structure consistent between sites within tropical tree species?
    Smith, JR; Ghazoul, J; Burslem, DFRP; Itoh, A; Khoo, E; Lee, SL; Maycock, CR; Nanami, S; Ng, KKS; Kettle, CJ
    PLOS ONE, 13 (3): MAR 16 2018
  • Keeping it in the family: strong fine-scale genetic structure and inbreeding in Lodoicea maldivica, the largest-seeded plant in the world 
    Morgan, E. J.; Kaiser-Bunbury, C. N.; Edwards, P. J.; et al. 
    CONSERVATION GENETICS, 18 (6): 1317-1329 DEC 2017 Article (Details)
  • Tracing coco de mer's reproductive history: Pollen and nutrient limitations reduce fecundity 
    Morgan, Emma J.; Kaiser-Bunbury, Christopher N.; Edwards, Peter J.; et al. 
    ECOLOGY AND EVOLUTION, 7 (19): 7765-7776 OCT 2017 Article (Details)
  • Evaluating realized seed dispersal across fragmented tropical landscapes: a two-fold approach using parentage analysis and the neighbourhood model 
    Ismail, Sascha A.; Ghazoul, Jaboury; Ravikanth, Gudasalamani; et al. 
    NEW PHYTOLOGIST, 214 (3): 1307-1316 MAY 2017 Article (Details)
  • Genetic diversity affects seedling survival but not growth or seed germination in the Bornean endemic dipterocarp Parashorea tomentella 
    Nutt, Kirsty S.; Burslem, David F. R. P.; Maycock, Colin R.; et al. 
    PLANT ECOLOGY & DIVERSITY, 9 (5-6): 471-481 2016 Article (Details)
  • Development of 12 polymorphic microsatellite loci for the endangered Seychelles palm Lodoicea maldivica (Arecaceae) 
    Morgan, Emma J.; Maattanen, Kirsti; Kaiser-Bunbury, Christopher N.; et al. 
    APPLICATIONS IN PLANT SCIENCES, 4 (4): APR 2016 Article (Details) 
Kettle Chris

Dr. Chris J. Kettle
ETH Zurich
Institute of Terrestrial Ecosystems
8092 Zurich

Tel: +41 (0)44 632 31 95

Research topics

  • Reproductive ecology of tropical trees
  • Tropical forest restoration
  • Genetic mechanisms of species coexistence
  • Conservation genetics of rare plants
  • Gene flow and maintenance of genetic diversity in human modified landscapes
  • Ecological Resilience of forest landscapes  



  • Plant-animal interactions and Ecosystem Function
  • Biodiversity and Ecosystem Function
  • Global Change Ecology
  • Environmental science and Policy
  • Understanding plant population, community and invasion dynamics
  • Ecology and Evolution of Plant Sexual System