Climate Change – University of Copenhagen

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CMEC > Research > Climate Change

Climate conditions are among the most important of factors influencing the distribution of life on Earth. Therefore, human induced global climate change is likely to severely impact the distribution of biodiversity and the function of ecosystems on land and in the sea. However, disentangling the climate change (both natural and human-made) influence on biodiversity and Earth system function from other factors modifying habitat is not straightforward and considerable controversy exists over the magnitude of losses in biodiversity as a result of climate change that can be expected over the next 50-100 years.

Ultimately, predicting how future climate conditions will impact life on Earth requires that we have an understanding of the relationship between climate and biodiversity both in the past and in the present. This theme focuses on understanding these relationships in order to allow such prediction.

The main research questions are:

  • How valid is the common assumption that the current geographic distribution of species is largely in equilibrium with climate and habitat distributions?
  • What role has climate change played historically in extinctions and changes in species distributions?
  • Do climate change impacts on biodiversity play out in the same way and can they be predicted in the same manner in marine and terrestrial systems?
  • Does ocean impact on terrestrial climate conditions influence the distribution of life on land?

Research projects

The following projects are also part of the research theme Phylogeography & Extinction

This project aims to test the relative impacts of climate change and human impacts on Late Quaternary extinctions, using an integrative and multidisciplinary approach. This includes ancient genetics, phylogeography and models relating species’ historic distributions with past climates.


Project leader:

David Nogués-Bravo

CMEC researchers:

Katharine Ann Marske, Michael Borregaard, Carsten Rahbek

We seek to understand which climatic conditions allowed species to survive in the past, improving our ability to forecast future impacts of climate change in population structures and species extinctions


Project leader:

David Nogués-Bravo

CMEC researchers:

Katharine Ann Marske, Ben Holt,

Carsten Rahbek


The following projects are also part of the research theme Mountains & Oceans

The biodiversity hotspot of the Eastern Arc Mountains of Tanzania has been explained from climatic stability related to the circulation system of the Indian Ocea. Through studies of tectonic changes and sediment data from drill-cores, the project aims to determine the time window for this climatic impact, and to link geochronology with variation in speciation-per-time along elevational gradients in the mountains.

 

Project leader:

Christian Mac Ørum Rasmussen

CMEC researchers:

Jon Fjeldså, Nikolaj Scharff

Collaborators:

Rauri Bowie, University of California (Berkeley)


Using palaeomodels for oceanic flows, this project aims to demonstrate to what extent changes in the global circulation systems are reflected in the geographical patterns of diversification in terrestrial environments. For this we use models of evolution of passerine birds (see Biogeography and Phylogenies theme) as well as distributions of old (relictual) species.


Project leaders:

Jørgen Bendtsen, Katherine Richardson
CMEC researchers:

Mohamed Adjou, Jon Fjeldså, Zhiheng Wang

The following projects are also part of the research theme Oceanography & Macroecology

The project investigates the relationship between various factors that are influenced by climate (e.g. temperature, salinity, nutrient and light availability) and the distributions of plankton. Ultimately, it is hoped to examine the robustness of known present day relationships by comparing them to paleo-distributions of key species.


Project leader:
Erik Askov Mousing
CMEC researchers:
Katherine Richardson
Collaborator:
Marianne Ellegaard (Dept. of Biology)

Complex oceanographic interactions result in conditions in the water column which are conducive to photosynthesis occurring. We aim to predict how climate change impacts the production of organic material. The study has a special focus on the relation between the pycnocline depth and the primary production.


Project leader:
Maren Moltke Lyngsgaard

CMEC researchers:
Katherine Richardson,
Jørgen Bendtsen
Collaborators:

Stiig Markager (Aarhus University)
Michael Olesen (Dept. of Biology)

Phytoplankton have vast morphological variations and are genetically more dissimilar than plants on land. The project aims at understanding how this biodiversity influences the strength of the “biological pump”  which is the mechanism whereby carbon fixed at the ocean surface by photosynthesis is transported to the inner ocean.


Project leader:
Katherine Richardson
CMEC researchers:
Jørgen Bendtsen, Mohamed Adjou

Over the last 10 years, molecular methods have revealed and astonishing diversity of picoplanktonic eukaryotes (<3 μm). With an emphasis on seasonal variation, this project makes an in depth investigation of the dynamics and diversity of cold water marine picoeukaryotes, using these new molecular methods. The aim is to better understand species diversity and temporal variation of picoeukayotes in Arctic regions and to examine the consequences of surface water warming due to climate change on the picoplankton biodiversity and community structure.


Project leader:
Nikolaj Sørensen

CMEC researchers:
Katherine Richardson
Collaborator:
Niels Daugbjerg (Dept. of Biology)


The following projects are also part of the research theme Socioeconomics & Biodiversity

The project aims at improving the methods for valuation of biodiversity and associated ecosystem services in the context of uncertainty and climate change. Additionally, the project aims at improving methods for decision-making under uncertainty. The project brings together approaches from ecological and environmental economics and the modelling of ecosystem services.

 

Project leader:

Niels Strange

CMEC researchers:

Bo Jellesmark Thorsen ,

Thomas Hedemark Lundhede ,

Jette Bredahl Jacobsen ,

Carsten Rahbek

In this project we investigate past and current adaptation behaviours of households; the motivations of households to adapt to future climate risks; preferences for various potential adaptation measures of households; and map adaptation opportunities. We expect empirical evidence of adaptation choices to contribute to the development of guidelines for future adaption strategies in terms of targeting and policy designs.

 

Project leader:

Yuan Zheng

CMEC researchers:

Bo Jellesmark Thorsen , Niels Strange


The following projects are also part of the research theme Marine Populations & Macroecology

Environmental changes affect all species in the food web, and changes thus both have a direct effect on each species plus an indirect effect stemming from changes in interaction strengths and patterns. In this project we investigate both species and community level reactions to a changing climate.


Project leader:

Martin Hartvig

CMEC researchers:

Anna Neuheimer , Brian MacKenzie

Predicting the future is difficult - including the future of fish populations and marine ecosystems. We investigate ways to combine multiple climate-ocean model outputs with fish and food web models to improve projections of fish responses in the sea.  The results will help society develop conservation policies that accommodate climate change, fishing and eutrophication effects on fish populations.


Project leader:

Brian MacKenzie

A changing environment affects the physiological performance and ultimately the spatial distribution of cod and its prey throughout the North Atlantic. In this project we estimate the future spatial cod distribution and catch potentials and evaluate the importance of abiotic changes (e.g. temperature) and biotic changes (changes in predator and prey abundance distributions).


Project leader:

Martin Hartvig

CMEC researchers:

Anna Neuheimer, Brian MacKenzie 

Atlantic cod and herring are economically important fish spanning the north Atlantic. We develop

modelling tools to explain and predict dynamics of cod and herring populations across the north Atlantic and predator-prey interactions under future climate conditions. The models will include environmentally dependent growth and life history for both species across their range.


Project leader:

Anna Neuheimer

CMEC researchers:

Martin Hartvig , Brian MacKenzie

This project investigates inter-species variability in temperature effects on the life history of small pelagic fishes in the north Atlantic. Our work focus on egg and larval stages as these are particularly vulnerable to climate change, and will include temperature effects on survival, growth and developmental rates, timing of spawning and match-mismatch dynamics. We will examine which early life history traits have stronger or weaker responses to temperature changes, and how this may vary among species.


Project leader:

Stavroula Tsoukali

CMEC researchers:

Brian MacKenzie


The following project is also part of the research theme Conservation & Biodiversity

This project continues the past 15 years of effort to map and analyse the patterns of species distribution in Africa, in particular for groups of vertebrates, and use these data to assess climate change vulnerability – especially for snakes and mammals. It will be undertaken in collaboration with IUCN Red List and IUCN Species Survival Commission in Cambridge (UK).


Project leader:

Neil Burgess
CMEC researchers:

Jonas Geldmann