Jonathan Kissling

Domaines de recherche

1. Evolutionary botany: reproductive biology, systematics, biogeography, karyology and morphological evolution of the African genus Sebaea - Gentianaceae.

2. Biodiversity conservation - Development:. Leader of Hombori Project

3. " Ethno-botany": traditional veterinary phytotherapy in Dori region (Burkina Faso) and rarefaction of woody species in Hombori (Mali)

4. Biosafety and plant genetic resources management: Biosafety Interdisciplinary Network (RIBios)


1. Reproductive Biology and Evolution of the Tribe Exaceae (Gentianaceae)
Diplostigmaty, the presence of a primary (apical) stigma and secondary (mid-stylar) stigmas along the style is only known from the genus Sebaea (Gentianaceae). Early work indicated that the secondary stigmas provide a mechanism of autogamy suggesting that it may ensure reproductive assurance. We are using field and greenhouse experiments, as well as genetic marker, in order to determine the functional role of diplostigmaty and its evolutionnary implications.

The floral development of a few selected Sebaea species is also studied (together with P. K. Endress, University of Zürich), while we are investigating the role of several combinations of morphological characters as potential key-innovations within the tribe Exaceae (together with N. Salamin, University of Lausanne).


Kissling J, Endress PK. The floral development of Sebaea aurea and S. exacoides (Gentianaceae). (in prep)

Kissling J, Taxonomy of Exochaenium and Lagenias: two resurrected genera of the tribe Excaeae (Gentianaceae). Systematic Botany 37, 238-253 [pdf].

Kissling J, Endress PK, Bernasconi G. 2009. Ancestral and monophyletic presence of diplostigmaty and its potential role as a morphological mixed mating strategy. New Phytologist 184, 303-310 [pdf].

Kissling J, Yuan, YM, Küpfer P, Mansion G. The polyphyletic genus Sebaea (Gentianaceae): A step forward in understanding the morphological and karyological evolution of the tribe Excaeae. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 53, 734-748. [doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2009.07.025].

Kissling J, Buerki S, Mansion G. 2009. Klackenbergia (Gentianaceae - Exaceae): A new endemic genus from Madagascar. Taxon 58, 907-912. [pdf]

Kissling J, Zeltner L, Küpfer P, Mansion G. 2008. Cytogeography of the Gentianaceae-Exaceae in Africa, with a special focus on Sebaea: The possible role of dysploidy and polyploidy in the evolution of the tribe. Botanical Journal of the Linnaean Society 159, 556-566. [pdf]

2. Hombori Project (Project Leader) 
In order to evaluate the respective impact of human and climatic factors on desertification, a multidisciplinary survey of Mount Hombori - one of the few remaining unspoiled zones of primary vegetation of Sahel - was started in 2003 (http://www.hombori.org).

Mount Hombori consists in an inaccessible tableland of about 2 square km located south of Timbuktu (Mali), at the border between the Sahara desert and the Sahel area. Due to the high cliffs surrounding its summit plateau, its flora and fauna have been preserved from pasture and agriculture. This ecological heaven is nowadays being threatened by the increasing pressure of tourism.

Fruit of an helvetico-malian collaboration, the first investigation of Mount Hombori biodiversity is now continued by a follow-up project including the completion of the starting biodiversity survey and its long-term monitoring to evaluate changes due to climatic factors. On the other hand, a sustainable protection and integrated development of the Mount Hombori region will be implemented.

Collaborations: Université de Neuchâtel, Département de médecine traditionnelle (Bamako), ISFRA (Bamako), Cesbio (France), Université de Lausanne, Association Diam Tam, Association malienne des guides de Montagne.

Fundings : Fondation Leenaards, WWF International, Dr Luc Hoffmann.

Some general publications:

Walther O, Renaud T, Kissling J, 2008. Heaven on Earth? The development of tourism in the Dogon country and the Hombori mountains (Mali). Articulo. Revue de science humaines [En ligne], 4 | 2008, mis en ligne le 04 octobre 2008, consulté le 28 février 2009. URL: http://articulo.revues.org/index417.html 2006. [pdf]

Kissling J, Renaud T, Ioset JR, 2006. Mission écologiques au mont Hombori. ANIMAN n°135 août-septembre.

Hainard P, Renaud T, Kissling J, 2005. Lettre au Professeur Jorg Winistorfer: dernière nouvelles du Mont Hombori (Mali), refuge biogéographique, à l'instar des Alpes... in: Reynard E, Dambo L. (éds) Vivre dans les milieux fragiles: Alpes et Sahel. Lausanne, Travaux de recherches de l'Institut de géographie, 31: 345-348. [pdf]

Ioset JR, Renaud T, Diallo D, Kissling J, 2004. Biodiversity monitoring, protection and integrated development of mount Hombori region (a hot spot of Biodiversity). ISE Newsletter 4: 7-8.

3. "Ethno-botany" and Pharmacognosy 
My interest is now focusing on the local community strategies towards the rarefaction of useful plants in dry West Africa.

Selected publications:

Kissling J, et al. Ethno-botanical survey of rare plants in the Hombori region (Mali), medicinal and veterinary uses.Journal of Ethnopharmacology. (in prep)

Kissling J, et al. Traditional horned cattle phytotherapy in the Dori region (Burkina Faso) breeding. (in prep)

Kissling J, Ioset JR, Marston A, Hostettmann K, 2005. Bio-guided isolation of cholinesteras inhibitors from the bulbs of Crinum X powelli. Phytotherapy research 19: 984-987. [pdf]

Marston A, Kissling J, Hostettmann K, 2002. A rapid TLC biautographic method for the detection of acetylcholinesterase and butyrylcholinesterase inhibitors in plants. Phytochemical analysis 13: 51-54. [pdf]

see also: ethnobiology.ch

4. Biosafety and Plant Genetic Ressources Management 
Since 2002, RIBios developed expertise related to the implementation of international environmental regulations. Our main activities focus on Participatory Technology Assessment - Citizen Participation in Science and Technology, Capacity building - Postgraduate courses and continuing education and Research.

In partnership with the CBD Secretariat, UNEP Biosafety Unit and the Swiss Federal Office of the Environment, we develop expertise related to the implementation of international environmental regulations.

For more information: http://www.ribios.ch



Pharmaceutical Botany (3BT2037): 4 hours/week (download the course support here, in French) 

but also, via the RIBios

Leading the "Certificate of Advandced Studies in Biosafety and Plant Genetic Ressources Management". (University of Geneva)

Leading the "Cours Interdisciplinaire en Biosecurité pour l'Afrique Francophone" (University of Bamako, ISFRA)

Jonathan Kissling

Chargé d'enseignement



+41 32 718 23 12

+41 32 718 23 60

Bureau D319


Hombori Project:                     http://www.hombori.org

Biosafety Interdisciplinary Network: http://www.ribios.ch