Extinction – University of Copenhagen

Mammoths and a hairy rhino walking through a snowy landscape. Deer wall paintings

Thousands of species and ecosystems are increasingly exposed to global changes. We link macroecological and genetic tools to get more mechanistic insights, and improve forecast of future extinction risk. This also provides the foundation to better understand dynamics and drivers of species extinctions, like land-use and climate change.

Our overall research questions

By generating primary level field data and use large already available datasets on distributions, phylogenies and traits, we will address three fundamental questions:

  1. Are ecological communities resilient to extinctions?
  2. Are they able to re-assemble after past climate changes?
  3. How many (and which) species are likely to be susceptible to climate change, accounting for their evolutionary history, past climatic niches and species traits?

Some of our research projects within Extinction are described below.

Pleistocene extinctions

What can the past tell us about the mechanisms triggering extinctions and what makes species winners or losers under global change?

Pleistocene extinctions and human macroecology

What can the past tell us about the mechanisms triggering extinctions and what makes species winners or losers under global change? 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. We also explore how past climate change and humans can explain past extinction events, from local extirpations to global extinctions.

Associate Professor David Nogués-Bravo: dnogues@snm.ku.dk
Professor Carsten Rahbek: crahbek@snm.ku.dk

Future extinctions

We predict the risks of future extinctions due to climate change across thousands of species.

Climatic changes and extinction risk

Several research projects are exploring the contributions of climatic changes to extinction risk. This includes abrupt climate change, traits and trophic position on species and population responses across the Late Quaternary. We integrate ancient genetics, fossil record and macroecological simulations.

Associate Professor David Nogués-Bravo: dnogues@snm.ku.dk 
Professor Miguel Araujo: mbaraujo@snm.ku.dk 
Professor Carsten Rahbek: crahbek@snm.ku.dk

Genetic diversity

We explore where in our planet there is a larger genetic potential to adapt to global changes.

Future of genetic diversity

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

Associate Professor David Nogués-Bravo: dnogues@snm.ku.dk 

Ecological communities in space and time

In this project 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.

Associate Professor David Nogués-Bravo: dnogues@snm.ku.dk
Professor Carsten Rahbek: crahbek@snm.ku.dk