Macroevolutionary and macroecological patterns of global biodiversity of vertebrates and plants

Prof Carsten Rahbek1

1Center for Macroecology, Evoolution and Climate, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark

Patterns of biodiversity result from a combination of historical (e.g., geology), evolutionary (e.g., speciation and extinction) and contemporary (e.g., climate, species interactions) processes – and not least movement of species and changes in their distributions in space and through time.

Despite two centuries of exploration, our understanding of factors determining the distribution of life on Earth is in many ways still in its infancy. Much of the disagreement about what causes variation in, e.g., macroecological patterns of species richness, is the result of lack of understanding processes of speciation, movement, maintenance and extinction in an explicit temporal-spatial framework.

With examples drawn from two decades of research on vertebrates combined with new analyses on all angiosperm species, I will illustrate that the spatial variation in current global patterns of biodiversity is not in equilibrium with contemporary processes and factors associated with climate, resources, habitat-complexity, but to a large extent reflects macro-evolutionary patterns of speciation, extinction and movement.


I hold a full professor-chair in Macroecology focusing on biodiversity at the Natural History Museum of Denmark, University of Copenhagen, a professor-chair in Macroecology at Imperial College, London and an Adjunct Professorship at Peking University, China. In Copenhagen, I am the director of a Danish Nation Research Foundation Center of Excellence for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate

In my biodiversity research I merge macroecological distribution data on thousands of species (millions of records) with evolutionary information derived from phylogenetic trees. Currently I explore new frontiers of research by combining the use of modern DNA- and genomic-techniques, including information from ancient DNA, novel macroecological predictive, simulation and null models, new biodiversity and climate-change ensemble forecast and hindcast models of species distribution, and powerful bioinformatics tools and statistics. The aim is to enable a truly holistic approach ito understand how the major geophysical, terrestrial and oceanic processes act together in shaping the distribution of life on Earth and how we may mange and preserve it.

Species on the Move

An International Conference Series

The conference brings together scientists and natural resource managers working in the disciplines of global change, biogeography and evolution, and relevant in contexts of natural resource management, biodiversity management and conservation, and theoretical ecology.

Species responses to climate change is a rapidly evolving research field, however, much of our progress is being made in independent research areas: e.g. understanding the process vs responding to the implications, terrestrial vs marine ecosystems, global meta-analyses vs in depth species-specific approaches. This interdisciplinary conference develops connections between these parallel streams, and across temporal and spatial scales.

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