Dr Will Hawthorne

Research interests

Tropical botany and plant ecology


I am a tropical botanist / plant ecologist, concentrating mostly on the interface between the academic and the practical management of tropical biodiversity, particularly in forest and mostly in Africa and the Caribbean.

After a Ph.d. on the ecology and biogeography of the East African coastal forests, I worked for several years in Ghana as plant ecologist and botanist on a forest inventory and management project, for the Ghana Forestry Dept. and ODA (now DFID). Since the early 1990s, I have been part time on research projects in the Dept. Plant Sciences, part-time freelance. Work has included: national and local botanic surveys, biodiversity databases, field guides, forest regeneration after logging and fire and guidance to forest managers. In short: researching and implementing ways of managing, conserving and assessing tropical plant biodiversity. I have worked mostly in tropical Africa - especially Ghana - and the Caribbean, but also in the Americas, from Mexico to Chile, and to Malaysia.

I have an ongoing interest in the development and implementation of objective but rapid means of assessing Bioquality, a term for emphasising the critical or globally important aspects of the plant life in a region rather than numbers of species per se. This has involved developing Rapid Botanic Surveys, and Star ratings for species with interlinked Genetic Heat Indices for plant communities. My involvement in Bioquality assessment and Rapid Botanic Survey (RBS) continues through collaboration with: surveys for the Ghana Ministry of Natural Resources of their network of special protected areas (GSBAs), set up as a consequence of an earlier national botanic survey; Darwin Initiative botanic surveys in Trinidad & Tobago, and Chile; RBS assesments for hydro-electric schemes in Sierra Leone and mining projects in Guinea, Mt. Nimba and Senegal and Ghana’s Northern Savanna biodiversity project.

Another continuing interest has been forest regeneration and plant regeneration guilds, particularly in the context of determining or promoting recovery of rain forest condition after disturbance and use, and understanding the autoecology of the varied species in forest. I co-wrote and co-edited with Wageningen University researchers the Biodiversity of West African Forests, which won the silver Engler book medal in 2008.

One of the main constraints in research, scientific management and conservation of rain forests is the need for accurate and rapid identification of infertile plants in the field; there is also a need to highlight to a broad audience the value and interest of plant diversity. I have therefore written field guides and other identification tools for West Africa and the Caribbean, including guides for West African woody plants; a farmer-friendly photo-guide to the larger trees of Ghana; and an ecotourist and student-friendly guide to the plants of Grenada.  I have collaborated in the development of database software for the management of forest data for planning reduced impact logging, and have been responsible for setting up the Virtual Field Herbarium (VFH) with image gallery here on the herbarium server.

Contact details


+44 (0) 1865 275096


Publications (while at this department)



Hawthorne, W.D. & C. A. M. Marshall (2019). Rapid Botanic Survey, Bioquality and improving botanical inventory in the tropics by integrating across spatial scales. Gardens’ Bulletin Singapore 71(Suppl. 2), 315-333. https://doi.org/10.26492/gbs71(suppl.2).2019-21

Lindsell, J., Agyei, R., Bosu, D., Decher, J. Hawthorne, W., Marshall, C. A. M., Ofori-Boateng, C. & Rödel, M.-O. (2019). The Biodiversity of Atewa Forest, Research Report. A Rocha Ghana, Accra, Ghana.
https://ghana.arocha.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/15/2015/07/Biodiversity-of-Atewa-A-Rocha.pdf. (PDF) The Biodiversity of Atewa Forest

Janssens,S., T. LP Couvreur, A. Mertens, G. Dauby, L. Dagallier, S.V. Abeele, F. Vandelook, M. Mascarello, H. Beeckman, M. Sosef, V. Droissart, M. van der Bank, O. Maurin, W. Hawthorne, C. Marshall, M. Rejou-Mechain, D. Beina, F. Baya, V. Merckx, B. Verstraete, O. Hardy. 2019. A large-scale species level dated angiosperm phylogeny for evolutionary and ecological analyses. bIORxiv. Cold Spring Harbor Lab.  i: http://dx.doi.org/10.1101/809921.

Bayu, B, W.Hawthorne, F. Bongers, L. Poorter 2017.  Effect of environmental factors on the Frequency and density of three functional groups of woody species in Ghana. Journal of Agriculture and Ecology Research International, 2394-1073. Vol. 10. 1-15. DOI:  10.9734/JAERI/2017/30953

J. Wong, W.D. Hawthorne. 2017. Ntim Gyakari. International Forestry Review  19: 128-130.

Laurin, G.V.  N. Puletti ,W.D. Hawthorne, V. Liesenberg, P. Corona,D. Papale, Q. Chenf, R. Valentini.  2016. Discrimination of tropical forest types, dominant species, and mapping of functional guilds by hyperspectral and simulated multispectral Sentinel-data. Remote Sensing of Environment 176: 163-176.

 Laurin, G.V. , Hawthorne, W., Chiti, T., Di Paola , A., Cazolla Gatii, 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. iForest - Biogeosciences and Forestry, 0, 488-496. http://www.sisef.it/iforest/contents/?id=ifor1779-008

C. A. M. Marshall, J. J. Wieringa & W. D. Hawthorne (2016). Bioquality hotspots in the tropical African flora. Current Biology 26: 3214–3219

Yasmin S. Baksh-Comeau, Shobha S. Maharaj, C. Dennis Adams, Stephen A. Harris, Denis L. Filer, William D. Hawthorne (2016). An annotated checklist of the vascular plants of Trinidad and Tobago with analysis of vegetation types and botanical 'hotspots'. Phytotaxa, 250:1. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.11646/phytotaxa.250.1.1

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..

Hawthorne, William D.. (2014) A new, endangered species of canopy tree from the evergreen forests of Ghana and Liberia, Synsepalum ntimii (Sapotaceae) Plant Ecology and Evolution. pp 141-148doi:10.5091/plecevo.2014.917

Hawthorne, W.D, Cable, S, Marshall, C.A.M. (2014) Empirical trials of plant field guides Conservation Biology..

Hawthorne, W.D. (2013) Six new Pavetta (Rubiaceae), including three 'litter-bin' species from the evergreen forests of Western Africa Kew Bulletin. 68 (4): pp 559-577.

Marshall, C.A.M., Hawthorne, W.D.. (2013) Important Plants of Northern Nimba County, Liberia: A Guide to Most Useful, Rare or Ecologically Important Species, with Mano Names and Uses . ISBN: 9780850742282

de, la Estrella M, van, der Burgt X.M, MacKinder, B.A, Devesa, J.A, James, M.S, Hawthorne, W.D. (2012) Gilbertiodendron tonkolili sp. nov. (Leguminosae-Caesalpinioideae) from Sierra Leone Nordic Journal of Botany. 30 (2): pp 136-143.

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.

Marshall, C.A, Hawthorne, W.D. (2012) Regeneration Ecology of the Useful Flora of the Putu Range Rainforest, Liberia [Perturbation et écologie de la flore utile de la forêt tropicale de Putu Range, Libéria] Economic Botany. 66 (4): pp 398-412.

Marshall, C.A.M, Hawthorne, W.D. (2012) Regeneration Ecology of the Useful Flora of the Putu Range Rainforest, Liberia Economic Botany. 66 (4): pp 398-412.

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 Biotropicadoi:10.1111/j.1744-7429.2010.00747.x

Parmentier, Ingrid, Harrigan, Ryan J., Buermann, Wolfgang, Mitchard, Edward T. A., Saatchi, Sassan, Malhi, Yadvinder, Bongers, Frans, Hawthorne, William D., Leal, Miguel E., Lewis, Simon L., Nusbaumer, Louis, Sheil, Douglas, Sosef, Marc S. M., Affum-Baffoe, Kofi, Bakayoko, Adama, Chuyong, George B., Chatelain, Cyrille, Comiskey, James A., Dauby, Gilles, Doucet, Jean-Louis, Fauset, Sophie, Gautier, Laurent, Gillet, Jean-Francois, Kenfack, David, Kouame, Francois N., Kouassi, Edouard K., Kouka, Lazare A., Parren, Marc P. E., Peh, Kelvin S.-H., Reitsma, Jan M., Senterre, Bruno, Sonke, Bonaventure, Sunderland, Terry C. H., Swaine, Mike D., Tchouto, Mbatchou G. P., Thomas, Duncan, Van Valkenburg, Johan L. C. H., Hardy, Olivier J.. (2011) Predicting alpha diversity of African rain forests: models based on climate and satellite-derived data do not perform better than a purely spatial model Journal of Biogeography..

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 798-805doi:10.1111/j.1461-0248.2009.01329.x

Hawthorne, W.D, Hughes, C.E. (2008) Optimising linear taxon sequences derived from phylogenetic trees - A reply to Haston & al. Taxon. 57 (3): pp 698-704 

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 495-504doi:10.1111/j.1365-2745.2008.01366.x

Parmentier, I, Malhi, Y, Senterre, B, Whittaker, R.J, N, A.T.N, Alonso, A, Balinga, M.P.B, Bakayoko, A, Bongers, F, Chatelain, C, Comiskey, J.A, Cortay, R, Kamdem, M.-N.D, Doucet, J.-L, Gautier, L, Hawthorne, W.D, Issembe, Y.A, Kouame, F.N, Kouka, L.A, Leal, M.E, Lejoly, J, Lewis, S.L, Nusbaumer, L, Parren, M.P.E, Peh, K.S.-H, Phillips, O.L, Sheil, D, Sonke, B, Sosef, M.S.M, Sunderland, T.C.H, Stropp, J, Ter, Steege H, Swaine, M.D, Tchouto, M.G.P, Gemerden, B.S.V, Van, Valkenburg J.L.C.H, Woll, H. (2007) The odd man out? Might climate explain the lower tree α-diversity of African rain forests relative to Amazonian rain forests? Journal of Ecology. 95 (5): pp 1058-1071.

Hawthorne, W.D, Jongkind, C.C.H. (2006) Woody Plants of Western African Forests. A guide to the forest trees, shrubs and lianes from Senegal to Ghana ..
doi:Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, UK

Hawthorne, W.D, Gyakari, N. (2006) Photoguide for the forest trees of Ghana. A tree-spotter’s field guide for identifying the largest trees.

Lawrence, A, Hawthorne, W.D. (2006) Plant Identification: User friendly Guides for biodiversity management. doi:Earthscan, UK

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 494-507doi:10.1111/j.1365-2745.2006.01111.x

Hawthorne, W.D, Jules, D, Marcelle, G, Wise, R. (2005) Caribbean Spice Island Plants: Trees, shrubs and climbers of Grenada, Carriacou and Petit Martinique: a picture gallery with notes on identification, historical and other trivia

Jongkind, C.C.H, Hawthorne, W.D. (2005) A botanical synopsis of the lianas and other forest climbers Chapter 2 In Forest Climbing Plants of West Africa: Diversity, Ecology and Management

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

Gordon, J.E, Hawthorne, W.D, Reyes-Garcia, A, Sandoval, G, Barrance, A.J. (2004) Assessing landscapes: A case study of tree and shrub diversity in the seasonally dry tropical forests of Oaxaca, Mexico and southern Honduras Biological Conservation. 117 (4): pp 429-442doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2003.08.011

Holmgren, M, Poorter, L, Siepel, A, Bongers, F, Buitelaar, M, Chatelain, C, Gautier, L, Hawthorne, W.D, Helmink, T, Jongkind, C, Os-Breijer, H.J, Wieringa, J.J, van, Zoest R. (2004) Ecological profiles of rare and endemic species Poorter L. et al. 2004

Poorter, L, Bongers, F, Kouame, F.N, Hawthorne, W.D. (eds). (2004) Biodiversity of West African forests. An ecological atlas of woody plant species ..
doi:CABI Publishing, Oxford, UK

Siepel, A, Poorter, L, Hawthorne, W.D. (2004) Ecological profiles of large timber species Poorter L. et al. 2004

Gordon, J.E, Hawthorne, W.D, Sandoval, G, Barrance, A.J. (2003) Trees and farming in the dry zone of southern Honduras II: The potential for tree diversity conservation Agroforestry Systems. 59 (2): pp 107-117doi:10.1023/A:1026360205113

Hawthorne, W.D. (2001) Forest Conservation in Ghana: Forestry, Dragons, Genetic Heat African Rain Forest Ecology And Conservation. An Interdisciplinary Perspective

Hawthorne, W.D, Parren, M.P.E. (2000) How important are forest elephants to the survival of woody plant species in Upper Guinean forests? Journal of Tropical Ecology. 16 (1): pp 133-150doi:10.1017/S0266467400001310

Hawthorne, W.D, Filer, D.L, Turnbull, D.J. (1999) Tree data management, mapping, and the development of the TREMA software International Forestry Review. 1 (2): pp 87-96 

Hawthorne, W.D, Grut, M, Abu-Juam, M. (1998) Forest Production and Biodiversity Conservation in Ghana, and Proposed International Support of Biodiversity Conservation CSERGE working paper

Hawthorne, W.D. (1996) Holes and the sums of parts in Ghanaian forest: Regeneration, scale and sustainable use Proceedings of the Royal Society of Edinburgh Section B: Biological Sciences. 104: pp 75-176 

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

Hawthorne, W.D, Abu-Juam, M. (1995) Forest Protection in Ghana (with particular reference to vegetation and plant species). doi:IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, U.K.

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

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

Hawthorne, W.D. (1993) The coastal forests Chapter 5 in The Forests of Eastern Africa

Burgess, N, Mwasumbi, L, Hawthorne, W.D, Dickinson, A, Doggett, R.A. (1992) The conservation of the East African Coastal forests Biological Conservation. 62: pp 205-218 

Hawthorne, W.D. (1990) Field Guide to the forest trees of Ghana Ghana Forestry Series 1 (2nd edition, Translated to French, 1997)..
doi:Natural Resources Institute, Chatham, UK.