James Borrell

James Borrell
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew · Natural Capital and Plant Health

Biological Sciences

About

66
Publications
26,203
Reads
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747
Citations
Citations since 2017
47 Research Items
727 Citations
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Introduction
Future Leader Fellow at Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, London, interested in conservation, population genetics, food security and molecular ecology. Currently studying diversity, distribution and domestication the tropical starch crop Enset. Also interested in designing effective strategies for agrobiodiversity conservation, and integration with protected areas for wild biodiversity. PhD in molecular ecology from Queen Mary University of London on population genetics of Dwarf birch.
Education
October 2012 - January 2017
Queen Mary, University of London
Field of study
  • Molecular Ecology
September 2008 - July 2011
University of Exeter
Field of study
  • Biological Sciences

Publications

Publications (66)
Article
Full-text available
Past reproductive interactions among incompletely isolated species may leave behind a trail of introgressed alleles, shedding light on historical range movements. Betula pubescens is a widespread native tetraploid tree species in Britain, occupying habitats intermediate to those of its native diploid relatives, B. pendula and B. nana. Genotyping 11...
Article
Full-text available
Background: Enset (Ensete ventricosum, Musaceae) is an African crop that currently provides the staple food for approx. 20 million Ethiopians. Whilst wild enset grows over much of East and Southern Africa and the genus extends across Asia to China, it has only ever been domesticated in the Ethiopian Highlands. Here, smallholder farmers cultivate hu...
Preprint
Full-text available
When populations of a rare species are small, isolated and declining under climate change, some populations may become locally maladapted. Detecting this maladaptation may allow effective rapid conservation interventions, even if based on incomplete knowledge. Population maladaptation may be estimated by finding genome-environment associations (GEA...
Article
Southern Arabia is a global biodiversity hotspot with a high proportion of endemic desert-adapted plants. Here we examine evidence for a Pleistocene climate refugium in the southern Central Desert of Oman, and its role in driving biogeographical patterns of endemism. Distribution data for seven narrow-range endemic plants were collected systematica...
Article
More than 31,000 useful plant species have been documented to fulfil needs and services for humans or the animals and environment we depend on. Despite this diversity, humans currently satisfy most requirements with surprisingly few plant species; for example, just three crops – rice, wheat and maize – comprise more than 50% of plant derived calori...
Article
Full-text available
Madagascar's biota is hyperdiverse and includes exceptional levels of endemicity. We review the current state of knowledge on Madagascar's past and current terrestrial and freshwater biodiversity by compiling and presenting comprehensive data on species diversity, endemism, and rates of species description and human uses, in addition to presenting...
Article
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Madagascar's unique biota is heavily affected by human activity and is under intense threat. Here, we review the current state of knowledge on the conservation status of Madagascar's terrestrial and freshwater biodiversity by presenting data and analyses on documented and predicted species-level conservation statuses, the most prevalent and relevan...
Article
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Climate resilient crops will become increasingly important, especially in regions where smallholder farmers are vulnerable to climate extremes. Enset, a multipurpose perennial staple crop consumed by over 20 million people in Ethiopia, purportedly provides food security during periods of drought. Here, we find evidence that frequent severe drought...
Preprint
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27 • Crop diversity plays a major role in underpinning food security. It is especially important to 28 smallholder and subsistence farmers, who often rely on crop diversity for stable and resilient 29 production. Despite this, global expansion of a small pool of major crops and the associated 30 homogenisation of global agricultural systems may dec...
Preprint
Clonal propagation enables favourable crop genotypes to be rapidly selected and multiplied. However, the absence of sexual propagation can lead to low genetic diversity and accumulation of deleterious mutations, which may eventually render crops less resilient to pathogens or environmental change. To better understand this trade-off, we characteris...
Preprint
Full-text available
Crop diversity plays a major role in underpinning food security. It is especially important to smallholder and subsistence farmers, who often rely on crop diversity for stable and resilient production. Despite this, global expansion of a small pool of major crops and the associated homogenisation of global agricultural systems may decrease on-farm...
Article
Full-text available
Loss of sexual reproductive capacity has been proposed as a syndrome of domestication in vegetatively propagated crops, but there are relatively few examples from agricultural systems. In this study, we compare sexual reproductive capacity in wild (sexual) and domesticated (vegetative) populations of enset (Ensete ventricosum (Welw.) Cheesman), a t...
Article
Background and Aims Delineating closely related and morphologically similar species is difficult. Here, we integrate morphology, genetics, ploidy and geography to resolve species and subspecies boundaries in four trees of section Costatae (genus Betula): Betula ashburneri, B. costata, B. ermanii and B. utilis as well as multiple subspecies and poly...
Article
Full-text available
Enset ( Ensete ventricosum ) is a multipurpose crop extensively cultivated in southern and southwestern Ethiopia for human food, animal feed, and fiber. It has immense contributions to the food security and rural livelihoods of 20 million people. Several distinct enset landraces are cultivated for their uses in traditional medicine. These landraces...
Article
Full-text available
Despite substantial growth in global agricultural production, food and nutritional insecurity is rising in Sub-Saharan Africa. Identification of underutilised indigenous crops with useful food security traits may provide part of the solution. Enset (Ensete ventricosum) is a perennial banana relative with cultivation restricted to southwestern Ethio...
Preprint
Full-text available
Smallholder farms in the semi-arid and sub-humid tropics are particularly vulnerable to increased climate variability. Indigenous agrisystems that have co-evolved with climate variability may have developed resilience strategies. In the Southwest Ethiopian Highlands, agrisystems are dominated by the multipurpose perennial staple enset ( Ensete vent...
Preprint
Full-text available
Despite substantial growth in global agricultural production, food and nutritional insecurity is rising in Sub-Saharan Africa. Identification of underutilised indigenous crops with useful food security traits may provide part of the solution. Enset (Ensete ventricosum) is a perennial banana relative with cultivation restricted to southwestern Ethio...
Article
Full-text available
Digitized molecular data are vital to numerous aspects of scientific research and genetic resource use. The Convention on Biological Diversity currently refers to this as “Digital Sequence Information” (DSI), a term not widely adopted by science and lacking a clear definition. There are concerns over the access to genetic resources and absence of b...
Article
Full-text available
Understanding hybridization and introgression between natural plant populations can give important insights into the origins of cultivated species. Recent studies suggest differences in ploidy may not create such strong reproductive barriers as once thought, and thus studies into cultivated origins should examine all co-occurring taxa, including th...
Preprint
Full-text available
Understanding hybridization and introgression between natural plant populations can give important insights into the origins of cultivated species. Recent studies suggest differences in ploidy may not create such strong reproductive barriers as once thought, and thus studies into cultivated origins should examine all co-occurring taxa, including th...
Article
Full-text available
In rapidly changing environments species conservation can be hindered by uncertainties in distinguishing closely related species. Cryptic ongoing hybridization can add further uncertainty and could be beneficial or destructive. Here, we show that a declining birch tree species is hybridizing with a more widespread relative in the Junggar basin, NW...
Article
Efficient small-farm food systems produce a significant portion of global food supply and can support relatively high population densities. Yet chronic food insecurity on small farms persists as poverty traps when socio-ecological and techno-cultural drivers reinforce negative outcomes for individuals and households. Understudied food socionatures...
Preprint
Full-text available
Background and Aims Delineating closely related and morphologically similar species with overlapping ranges can be difficult. Here, we use section Costatae (genus Betula ) as a model to resolve species and subspecies boundaries in four morphologically similar trees: Betula ashburneri, Betula costata, Betula ermanii and Betula utilis (including ssp....
Article
Full-text available
Biodiversity is essential to food security and nutrition locally and globally. By reviewing the global state of edible plants and highlighting key neglected and underutilized species (NUS), we attempt to unlock plant food resources and explore the role of fungi, which along with the wealth of traditional knowledge about their uses and practices, co...
Article
Full-text available
Ensete ventricosum (Musaceae, enset) is an Ethiopian food security crop. To realize the potential of enset for rural livelihoods, further knowledge of enset diversity, genetics and genomics is required to support breeding programs and conservation. This study was conducted to explore the enset genome to develop molecular markers, genomics resources...
Book
Full-text available
Kew’s State of the World’s Plants and Fungi project provides assessments of our current knowledge of the diversity of plants and fungi on Earth, the global threats that they face, and the policies to safeguard them. Produced in conjunction with an international scientific symposium, Kew’s State of the World’s Plants and Fungi sets an important inte...
Preprint
Full-text available
Background Enset (Ensete ventricosum) is a multipurpose crop extensively cultivated in southern and southwestern Ethiopia for human food, animal feed and fiber. It contributes to the food security and rural livelihoods of 20 million people. Several distinct enset landraces are cultivated for their uses in traditional medicine. Socio-economic change...
Article
Full-text available
Global biodiversity hotspots are areas containing high levels of species richness, endemism and threat. Similarly, regions of agriculturally relevant diversity have been identified where many domesticated plants and animals originated, and co-occurred with their wild ancestors and relatives. The agro-biodiversity in these regions has, likewise, oft...
Preprint
Full-text available
Enset (Ensete ventricosum) is a multipurpose crop extensively cultivated in southern and southwestern Ethiopia for human food, animal feed and fiber. It contributes to the food security and rural livelihoods of 20 million people. Several distinct enset landraces are cultivated for their uses in traditional medicine. Socio-economic changes and the l...
Preprint
Enset (Ensete ventricosum) is a major starch staple and food security crop for 20 million people. Despite substantial diversity in morphology, genetics, agronomy and utilization across its range, nutritional characteristics have only been reported in relatively few landraces. Here, we survey nutritional composition in 22 landraces from three enset...
Preprint
Full-text available
Mapping the distribution of crop pests and pathogens is essential to safeguard food security and sustainable livelihoods. However, these data are unavailable for many neglected and underutilised crops, particularly in developing countries. In Ethiopia, the world's largest historic recipient of food aid, the indigenous banana relative enset (Ensete...
Preprint
Full-text available
Molecular markers can allow us to differentiate species that occupy a morphological continuum, and detect patterns of allele sharing that can help us understand the dynamics of geographic zones where they meet. Betula microphylla is a declining wetland species in NW China that forms a continuum of leaf morphology with its relative Betula tianshanic...
Preprint
Full-text available
PREMISE Loss of sexual reproductive capacity has been proposed as a syndrome of domestication in vegetatively propagated crops, but there are relatively few examples from agricultural systems. Compared to sexually propagated crops banked as seeds, vegetative crop diversity is typically conserved in living collections that are more costly and insecu...
Article
Summary Enset (Ensete ventricosum (Welw.) Cheesman) is the major starch staple of the Ethiopian Highlands, where its unique attributes enhance the food security of approximately 20 million people and have earned it the title “The Tree Against Hunger”. Yet enset-based agriculture is virtually unknown outside of its narrow zone of cultivation, despit...
Article
Societal Impact Statement Enset is a staple food for over 20 million people via its starch-rich corm and pseudostem, yet it is virtually unknown outside a narrow zone of cultivation in southern Ethiopia. Due to acculturation and urbanization coupled with climate change, emerging pests and the introduction of new crops, the extensive indigenous know...
Article
Full-text available
When populations of a rare species are small, isolated and declining under climate change, some populations may become locally maladapted. Detecting this maladaptation may allow effective rapid conservation interventions, even if based on incomplete knowledge. Population maladaptation may be estimated by finding genome‐environment associations (GEA...
Article
Full-text available
Climate change is expected to severely impact cultivated plants and consequently human livelihoods1–3, especially in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA)4–6. Increasing agricultural plant diversity (agrobiodiversity) could overcome this global challenge7–9 given more information on the climatic tolerance of crops and their wild relatives. Using >200,000 worldw...
Preprint
A multilateral investigation of Enset (Ensete ventricosum (Welw.) Cheesman: Musaceae) on its biology, on-farm diversity, nutritional composition, biochemistry, seed germination physiology and floral anatomy (morphology) of selected landraces had been made.
Preprint
Full-text available
Background and Aims: Southern Arabia is a global biodiversity hotspot with a high proportion of endemic desert-adapted plants. Here we examine evidence for a Pleistocene climate refugium in the southern Central Desert of Oman, and its role in driving biogeographical patterns of endemism. Methods: Distribution data for seven narrow-range endemic pla...
Article
Full-text available
Enset in Ethiopia: a poorly characterized but resilient starch staple [Amharic Abstract]
Article
Full-text available
Dwarf birch (Betula nana) has a widespread boreal distribution but has declined significantly in Britain where populations are now highly fragmented. We analyzed the genetic diversity of these fragmented populations using markers that differ in mutation rate: conventional microsatellites markers (PCR-SSRs), RADseq generated transition and transvers...
Article
Full-text available
A recent study on a group of rough-skinned Gephyromantis frogs from Madagascar (Anura: Mantellidae: Mantellinae) established a new subgenus, Asperomantis, with five described species and one undescribed candidate species. Based on newly collected material from the Bealanana District, we address the taxonomy of this candidate species, and reveal tha...
Article
Full-text available
Two research expeditions surveyed the herpetofauna within the monsoon-influenced zone of Wadi Sayq, a coastal wadi system 31.5km in length, situated in the southwestern Jabal Qamar mountain range, Dhofar, Oman. Surveys were undertaken from 02 to 29 February 2012, and from 06 February to 07 March 2013. Ninety-three individuals belonging to 15 specie...
Article
Full-text available
17th Student Conference on Conservation Science - Volume 50 Issue 3 - James Borrell
Data
Table S1 Detailed information about and results of samples used in this study. Table S2 Parameter settings and version numbers for the CLC tools used in the present analyses. Table S3 Change in number of SNVs with different coverage thresholds being applied to the data set during the genotyping. Fig. S1 Flow chart outlining the analysis pipeline...
Article
Full-text available
Hybridisation may lead to introgression of genes among species. Introgression may be bidirectional or unidirectional, depending on factors such as the demography of the hybridising species, or the nature of reproductive barriers between them. Previous microsatellite studies suggested bidirectional introgression between diploid Betula nana (dwarf bi...
Article
Full-text available
The first thorough biological assessment of the Dhofar region was conducted in 1977/1978 by the Oman Flora & Fauna Survey and published as a special report in Journal of Oman Studies (Shaw Reade et al 1980). Since then the wildlife of Oman has become comparatively well known, with the bird fauna particularly well recorded and reported (Eriksen & Vi...
Article
Full-text available
The 3rd annual Citizen Cyberscience Summit (Feb 20th – 22nd, 2014) held in London, UK, brought together a diverse international community of scientists, software developers, industry, policy makers and citizen scientists, to share advances in this field. My own academic experience lies in molecular ecology and conservation. Participation in citizen...
Article
Full-text available
Betula pendula and B. pubescens are common tree species of Europe that differ in ploidy level. A continuum of morphological variation between the two species makes them hard to differentiate in the field. The Atkinson Discriminant Function (ADF), based on leaf shape, was proposed in 1986 as a metric to distinguish them and has since become a standa...
Data
Summary of the 16 polymorphic microsatellite loci multiplexed for all samples. Table S2 Summary of published pollen records of Betula species in the UK. Table S3 Genetic diversity of 55 populations with over seven samples of the three Betula species, based on microsatellites. Fig. S1 Pairs of leaves from a representative sample of trees used in the...
Article
Full-text available
Habitat fragmentation represents an unprecedented threat to global biodiversity. Understanding the range at which individuals and populations can become reproductively isolated is vital to ecosystem management and the maintenance of genetic diversity. Here, I demonstrate an improved rapid assessment protocol for empirically measuring the settling v...

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Projects

Projects (3)
Project
We propose to perform a high-resolution multi-functional genomic and environmental characterization of Ethiopian highland agri-systems, focusing on Enset and ten regionally and globally important crops that together comprise a range of complementary cropping agri-systems in the Southern Ethiopian highlands, seeking to enhance their role in future resource provision, and generating clear economic and social impact on the livelihoods they support.
Project
A 2015-16 expedition to a remote, unstudied forest northern Madagascar! We're writing up the results, and will share progress as and when it happens!