Cracking the code of biodiversity responses to past climate change

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article


  • David Nogues-Bravo
  • Francisco Rodríguez-Sánchez
  • Erik de Boer
  • Roland Jansson
  • Helene Morlon
  • Damien Fordham
  • Stephen Jackson

Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • Natural History Museum of Denmark,University of Copenhagen
  • Estación Biológica de Doñana, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas
  • Faculty of Geosciences, Utrecht University
  • Department of Ecology and Environmental Science, Umeå University
  • Institut de Biologie, Ecole Normale Supérieure
  • The Environment Institute and School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, The University of Adelaide
  • Department of Geosciences and School of Natural Resources and Environment, University of Arizona
  • Southwest Climate Science Center, US Geological Survey


How individual species and entire ecosystems will respond to future climate change are among the most pressing questions facing ecologists. Past biodiversity dynamics recorded in the paleoecological archives show a broad array of responses, yet significant knowledge gaps remain. In particular, the relative roles of evolutionary adaptation, phenotypic plasticity, and dispersal in promoting survival during times of climate change have yet to be clarified. Investigating the paleo-archives offers great opportunities to understand biodiversity responses to future climate change. In this review we discuss the mechanisms by which biodiversity responds to environmental change, and identify gaps of knowledge on the role of range shifts and tolerance. We also outline approaches at the intersection of paleoecology, genomics, experiments and predictive models that will elucidate the processes by which species have survived past climatic changes and enhance predictions of future changes in biological diversity.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)765-776
Number of pages12
JournalTrends in Ecology & Evolution
Issue number10
Early online date30 Aug 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2018


  • Adaptation, Dispersal, Extinction, Models, Experiments, Paleoecology, Forecast