Maintenance – University of Copenhagen

CMEC > Research > Maintenance

Current biodiversity reflects a multitude of processes acting at different spatial scales; positive and negative species interactions, spatial variation in climate and different resource levels all play together to shape the patterns we observe in nature.

We use experiments, observations, and simulation models to explore patterns and processes that underlie the maintenance of biodiversity now and into the future.

Our overall research questions

By employing primary-level field observation data, together with large-scale databases on species distributions and sophisticated simulation models we address three fundamental questions:

  1. How do evolution, ecology, and biogeography interact to maintain species diversity in local communities and at larger scales?
  2. What are the relative roles of deterministic and stochastic processes in the maintenance of diversity?
  3. How are local communities assembled?

Some of our research projects within Maintenance are described below.

Large-scale macroecological patterns

The ultimate testing ground for understanding the fundamental processes of nature is the large-scale patterns of species diversity across the planet. By analysing large-scale patterns in both the terrestrial and marine environments in the context of ecological theory, null models and advanced simulation analyses, we aim to answer some of the biggest questions in ecology.

Multi-community patterns of China's tree flora

Based on a uniquely large high-quality dataset of Chinese trees we are answering fundamental questions about the relationship between local communities and the environment.

Assistant Professor Zhiheng Wang:
Professor Carsten Rahbek:

Effects of climate change and land use change on bird population trends

While both climate and land use change are recognized as top threats to biodiversity, studies on their synergistic effects are very rare. Using an unprecedented long-term citizen science program monitoring bird populations across Denmark, combined with European datasets, we aim to quantify the relative importance of climate and land use change on driving population changes over the past four decades.

Assistant Professor Naia Morueta-Holme:
Professor Carsten Rahbek:

Disentangling the roles of climate change and land use on biodiversity change

Are species shifting their distributions solely to track the warming temperatures or do land use changes like land abandonment play a role? Attributing biodiversity responses to different human-driven factors is challenging due to correlations, scale-dependencies, and interaction effects between them. Further, consistent definitions and measures of land use change that can be directly related to biodiversity responses are missing. We explore the potential of high-resolution remote sensing products and ground-based imagery for improving land use measures and develop a framework for separating the impacts of land use and climate change using a range of methodologies such as meta-analysis, fieldwork, and modelling.

Assistant Professor Naia Morueta-Holme:
Professor Carsten Rahbek:
Professor Miguel Araujo:

The global importance of mountain diversity

Mountains are home to a disproportionate amount of the world's species, appear to play a key role in generating new species, and are crucial as homes and water suppliers to humans. We are mapping these patterns across the globe and reviewing the great progress that has been made in recent years in understanding mountain diversity.

Professor Carsten Rahbek:
Assistant Professor Michael Krabbe Borregaard: 
Professor Jon Fjeldså:

Predictive models for species diversity

Macroecological analyses have long relied on correlative models, fitting statistical curves to observed relationships, but in recent years some of the most novel insights have come from explicitly mechanistic predictive models of species diversity. We develop a number of such models and aim to drive a paradigm shift in how we test hypotheses in macroecology.

Professor Carsten Rahbek:

Small-scale spatiotemporal structuring of marine phytoplankton diversity

We explore how relatively small differences in the ocean environment at the local scale lead to a heterogeneous distribution of phytoplankton diversity and what effect this patchy distribution has on the maintenance of diversity at larger spatial scales.

Professor Katherine Richardson:

Modelling plankton dynamics in the open ocean

The project is part of an international project aiming to better constrain the planetary boundary on biosphere integrity. The plankton dynamics modelling will add a mechanistic description of marine plankton dynamics and biogeochemical flows to the biosphere component of the Madingley model. 

Professor Katherine Richardson:

Identifying global patterns in the vertical and horizontal distribution of ocean primary production (PP)

In this project, we examine global datasets for patterns in photosynthetic performance. It combines field and modelling studies to explore patterns in the vertical and horizontal distribution of ocean PP at various spatio- and temporal scales to improve estimates of global, regional and seasonal PP.

Professor Katherine Richardson:

Species interactions and
interaction networks

No species or population exists in isolation from others. Species interactions are the basic components that make up local communities, and may even be the underlying driver of species distributions across large scales.

Geography of mutualistic plant-animal interactions

We explore how plant and animal species interact with one another, how mutualistic interactions have been shaped by current and historical processes, and how those interactions promote the maintenance of diversity in local communities. Most work focuses on plant-hummingbird and plant-pollinator interaction networks in the Caribbean and across the Americas, but we also work with other systems, such as plant-frugivore interaction networks.

Associate Professor Bo Dalsgaard:
Professor Carsten Rahbek:

The importance of pollination for coffee agricultural yield

Working together with Oubu Coffee and Jamaican farmers of Blue Mountain Coffee, probably the world's most iconic coffee, we work to map the pollination interactions of coffee plants across the steep elevational gradient in the Jamaican Blue Mountains. This data will eventually be used by farmers to increase their yield and improve their quality of life in addition to improving our understanding of how species interaction networks change in space.

Associate Professor Bo Dalsgaard:
Professor Niels Strange:
Professor Jette Bredahl-Jacobsen:
Professor Carsten Rahbek:

Understanding the changing geography of parasites and vector-borne diseases

A vast proportion of biodiversity are parasites and other pathogen organisms that can cause disease in humans and other animals. They display intriguing worldwide geographical variation in richness and prevalence, shaped by the many closely interacting host and climate-sensitive vector species. We work to develop evidence-based predictive models for the emergence and changing transmission patterns of a number of vector-borne diseases, by discovering basic ecological and biological mechanisms behind their distributions and emergence. Current work focuses mainly on unravelling the impacts of climate change on snail-borne parasites in Denmark and Africa.

Assistant Professor Anna-Sofie Stensgaard:

Global patterns of phylogenetic species diversity under global change scenarios

We explore how projected future climate and land use change will affect vertebrate species distributions and how these changes might affect the diversity of lineages across the Tree of Life. Cutting-edge species distributions models, land use, and climate models are used for this purpose, together with a novel model of species extinctions.

Professor Miguel Araujo:
Professor Carsten Rahbek:

Community assembly

How do species assemble to make up local communities? And at which scale do these processes occur?

Core Corvides

Deterministic processes prevent ecologically similar species from coexisting in local communities, but do they shape distributions at larger spatial scale? We address this question using one of the most complete datasets on a single clade: the ~800-species large radiation of corvoid birds, including a fully resolved species-level phylogeny, data on morphological and feeding traits and habitat use as well as occurrence data on >1200 islands in the Indo-Pacific. These islands have been a classic testing ground for the still unresolved question of what drives island-scale community assembly. With this dataset and drawing upon decades of analytical development, we should finally be able to resolve one of the longest-standing controversies in ecology.

Professor Carsten Rahbek:
Professor Jon Fjeldså:

Arthropod community assembly in Tanzania's Eastern Arc Mountains

We explore and document the arthropod fauna of the rainforests of the Udzungwa Mountains, the largest and best-preserved part of the Eastern Arc Mountains. We develop new inventory techniques to measure the diversity of megadiverse groups of organisms and to create comparable quantitative datasets. We are particularly interested in alpha and beta diversity along altitudinal and horizontal gradients, to test species turnover and compare arthropod diversity patterns with those of vertebrates and plants.

Professor Nikolaj Scharff:

The effects of climate, landscape history and land use on macrofungal communities in Europe

Fungal communities in Europe are highly species-rich, complex and comparatively little studied. Based on several different datasets, we investigate how landscape history, contemporary climate, species interactions and land use affect community assembly and trait space in macrofungal communities.

Associate Professor Jacob Heilmann-Clausen:

Dynamics of island diversity

Islands are simpler laboratories for understanding the processes driving global diversity; but they are also unique systems in themselves, with a characteristic geological life cycle. We investigate what limits species diversity of islands of different sizes, topographical and geological complexity and climate.

Assistant Professor Michael Krabbe Borregaard:  
Professor Robert J. Whittaker:
Associate Professor (Emeritus) Henning Adsersen: