Dr Stephen Cavers

Dr Stephen Cavers

Centre for Ecology & Hydrology
Bush Estate
EH26 0QB 
Tel: +44 (0)131 445 4343
Fax: +44 (0)131 445 3943
E-mail: Dr Stephen Cavers

Current work and research interests

My research concerns genetic diversity, gene flow and adaptation in plants. Working with UK and international partners, I have studied how genetic variation is organised in populations, how this structure relates to life history characteristics and how such information can be used for better management and conservation of threatened species.

Combined quantitative and population genetic approaches are used to identify demographic and evolutionary factors shaping genetic diversity and population structure and allow more thorough assessment of genetic resources for conservation.

Recently, the importance of gene flow patterns and the consequences of forest fragmentation and restoration, e.g. through alteration of mating systems, have been explored in Scotland, Central America and Africa.

Building on the knowledge gained on adaptive divergence within species, new research has begun to explore the link between trees as keystone organisms and other trophic levels.

Key Species:
Cedrela odorata, Swietenia macrophylla, Vochysia ferruginea, Prunus africana, Pinus sylvestris, Quercus spp., Acacia senegal.


Current Projects

  1. GAP2: Population genomics and evolution of adaptive traits in Pines (NERC Std Grant, 2013-2016)
  2. Development and implementation of a species identification and timber tracking system in Africa with DNA fingerprints and stable isotopes (partner, ITTO)
  3. MaP-FGR (partner): Strengthening conservation: a key issue for adaptation of marginal / peripheral populations of forest tree to climate change in Europe. (COST)
  4. EVOLTREE (partner): Evolution of trees as drivers of terrestrial biodiversity, European Research Group - European Forestry Institute
  5. GRIPP - Deploying forest genetic resources for management of tree pests and pathogens – a review of prospects and capacity (Defra)

Previous Projects

  1. GAP (Principal Investigator): Genomics of adaptation in Pines (NERC)
  2. SEEDSOURCE (coordinator):  Developing best practice for sourcing and utilising seed for agroforestry and reforestation in the Latin American humid tropics. (EU FP6)
  3. FOREAIM (partner): Bridging restoration and multi-functionality in degraded forest landscape of Eastern Africa and Indian Ocean Islands (EU FP6)
  4. ACACIAGUM (partner, WP leader): Innovative management of Acacia senegal trees to improve resource productivity and gum-arabic production in arid and semi-arid sub-Saharan Africa (EU FP6)
  5. GENEO-TROPECO (coordinator):  Sustainable management of neo-tropical tree genetic resources: combining molecular and modelling methods to understand structure and dynamics of gene diversity (EU FP5) Final report
  6. TEAKDIV: Developing know-how for the improvement and sustainable management of teak genetic resources (EU FP5) Final Report Final Report
  7. OAKFLOW: (Intra and interspecific gene flows in oaks as mechanisms promoting genetic diversity and adaptive potential) (EU FP5) Final Report

Current Group Members

Past staff/students:

Cathy Horsley (PhD), Matti Salmela (PhD), Emily Barlow (PhD), Frazer Sinclair (PhD), Anandan Govindarajulu (M.Sc.), Cecile Bacles (staff), Katherine Walker (staff), Sam Davies (staff / PhD), Fernando Arenal (MSc), Gustavo Hernandez (MSc), Judith Nantongo (MSc), Tereza Rieglova (MSc), Jess Shepherd (MSc), Patrick Home Robertson (MSc), Annelise Decorde, Charlotte Aubrey (MSc), Chris Brown (MSc), Tom Heller (MSc)

Academic CV

  • PhD, University of Edinburgh (2002): Population genetic structure and phylogeography of two commercially important neotropical tree species: Vochysia ferruginea Mart. and Cedrela odorata L.
  • MSc Ecology, University of Wales, Bangor (1998)
  • BSc Chemistry, University of Edinburgh (1994)
Selected publications

See also the NERC Open Research Archive.

Salmela MJ, Cavers S, Cottrell JE, Iason GR and Ennos RA (in press, 2013) Spring phenology shows genetic variation among and within populations in Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) in the Scottish Highlands. Plant Ecology and Diversity.

Cavers S. and Dick C.W. (2013) Phylogeography of Neotropical trees. Journal of Biogeography 40, 615-617.

Cavers S, Telford A et al. (2013) Cryptic species and phylogeographical structure in the tree Cedrela odorata L. thoughout the Neotropics. Journal of Biogeography 40, 732-746.

Wachowiak W, Iason GR and Cavers S (2013) Among-population differentiation at nuclear genes in native Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) in Scotland. Flora 208, 79-86.

Odee D, Telford A, Wilson, Gaye and Cavers, S. (2012) Plio-Pleistocene history and phylogeography of Acacia senegal in dry woodlands and savannahs of sub-Saharan tropical Africa: evidence of early colonisation and recent range expansion. Heredity 109, 372-382

Odee et al. (2012) Prospects for genetic improvement of Acacia senegal: can molecular data deliver better yield and gum quality? In: Kennedy, John F; Phillips, Glyn O; Williams, Peter A, (eds.) Gum Arabic. Cambridge, Royal Society of Chemistry, 99-109, 347pp.

Salmela et al. (2011) Seasonal patterns of photosynthetic activity and spring phenology reveal genetic differentiation among native Scots pine. Forest Ecology and Management 262(6), 1020-1029

Barlow et al. (2011) Weak global population genetic structure in a philopatric seabird, the European shag (Phalacrocorax aristotelis). IBIS 153(4), 768-778

Kremer et al. (2011) Forest ecosystem genomics and adaptation: EVOLTREE conference report. Tree Genetics and Genomes 7(4), 869-875.

Navarro et al. (2011) Seed sourcing recommendations for forest restoration: impacts of tree isolation on progeny performance of cedar and mahogany in the neotropics. In: Montagnini, Florencia and Finney, Christopher, (eds.) Restoring Degraded landscapes with native species in Latin America. New York, Nova Science Publishers, 51-62.

Telford, A. et al. (2011) Can genetic bar-coding be used to identify aquatic Ranunculus L. subgenus Batrachium (DC) A. Gray? A test using some species from the British Isles. Aquatic Botany 95 (1), 65-70.

Wachowiak et al. (2011) High genetic diversity at the extreme range edge: nucleotide variation at nuclear loci in Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) in Scotland. Heredity 106, 775-787. doi: 10.1038/hdy.2010.118

Davies et al. (2010) Genetic consequences of multigenerational and landscape colonisation bottlenecks for a neotropical forest pioneer tree, Vochysia ferruginea. Tropical Plant Biology 3(1), 14-27.

Lemes et al. (2010) Chloroplast DNA microsatellites reveal contrasting phylogeographic structure in mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla King, Meliaceae) from Amazonia and Central America. Tropical Plant Biology 3(1), 40-49.

Omondi et al. (2010) Genetic diversity and population structure of Acacia senegal (L) Willd. in Kenya. Tropical Plant Biology 3(1), 59-70.

Nantongo et al. (2010) Structuring of genetic diversity in Albizia gummifera C.A.Sm. among some East African and Madagascan populations. Journal of African Ecology

Ingleby et al. (2007) Mycorrhizas in agroforestry: spread and sharing of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi between trees and crops. Plant and Soil 294, 125–136.

Cavers et al. (2005) Optimal sampling strategy for estimation of spatial genetic structure in tree populations. Heredity.

Cavers et al. (2003) Chloroplast DNA phylogeography reveals colonisation history of a Neotropical tree, Cedrela odorata L., in Mesoamerica. Molecular Ecology 12, 1451-1460.