Phylogeography & Extinction – University of Copenhagen

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Future global environmental changes will likely expose species to significant challenges, such as declining habitat, less favorable climatic conditions, and increased conflict with humans, all of which can contribute to the decline or disappearance of individual populations and a heightened extinction risk for many species.  However, to predict the future of biodiversity we must first understand the present, which is contingent upon the past.  In short, we cannot understand extinction just by studying extinct species; rather, we seek to understand what factors create species’ geographic distributions, what makes these distributions change and the long-term consequences of that change, in terms of population size and community composition. 

Research within this theme aims at gaining more mechanistic insights into the dynamics and drivers of population dynamics, range formation, community composition and extinction by synthesizing data across ecological and evolutionary approaches.  We are assembling a global database of phylogeographic data to investigate species responses to past environmental change.  Combined with data on paleoclimates, fossil distributions, ancient human influence, and contemporary species coexistence, we will characterize how species from different taxonomic groups, communities from different biomes, and ecosystems from different regions responded to past environmental change. 

The main research questions are:

  • How can we improve the anticipate species level responses and extinctions based on past biodiversity dynamics?
  • What is the role of historical dispersal and filtering in shaping current ecological communities and large scale biodiversity patterns?
  • How will future climate change affect genetic diversity?

Research Projects

Several research projects are exploring the contributions of climatic changes, including abrupt climate change, traits and trophic position on species and population responses across the Late Quaternary integrating ancient genetics, fossil record and macroecological simulations.


Project leaders:

David Nogués-Bravo, Katharine Ann Marske

CMEC researchers:

Alexander Flórez-Rodríguez, Fillipo Botta, Ditte Truelsen, Konstantinos Giampoudakis, Sen Li


In this project we aim to reconstruct global late Pleistocene genetic dynamics across hundreds of species, and evaluate the amount of genetic diversity expose. This information will then be used to predict how the distribution of genetic diversity could evolve in face of climate change.


Project leaders:

Andreia Miraldo, David Nogués-Bravo

CMEC researchers:

Katharine Ann MarskeSen Li



We integrate phylogeography, which detects past shifts in species’ geographic ranges and population size, with other ecological and evolutionary methods to provide insights into roles of history, environment and dispersal limitation in determining community composition.


Project leader:

Katharine Ann Marske

CMEC researchers:

Sen Li, David Nogués-Bravo, Carsten Rahbek,


We explore the niche dynamics and trigger mechanisms that allowed Homo sapiens to spread around the planet during the Late Quaternary by unifying macroecology, community ecology, paleoecology and paleoclimatology.


Project leaders:

David Nogués-Bravo and Carsten Rahbek

CMEC researchers:

Konstantinos Giampoudakis, Alexander Flórez-Rodríguez, Michael Krabbe Borregaard, Katharine Ann Marske, Sen Li