2 October 2012

New research into species extinction under climate change


Nine researchers from University of Copenhagen are awarded the prestigious Sapere Aude grant. One of them is associate professor David Nogués-Bravo who receives DKK six million from the Danish Council for Independent Research to improve the methods that predict how species react to global change. 

Image by Mauricio Antón

Thousands of species across the planet are threatened with extinction partly due to climate change. In order to protect the species, knowledge is needed on how they will react to global change. A new research project ‘EXTINCTIONs’, lead by associate professor David Nogués-Bravo, will help reveal the future ahead by testing the current, scientific prediction methods on historical data on species extinction.

"It is extremely important that the methods we use to predict how species will respond to climate change are as exact as possible. The results influence the decisions made on how to protect species against extinction. But logically, we cannot travel forward in time to test how exact the results our methods provide are. Therefore, we will ‘travel back in time’ and test the methods on one of the extinction periods we know most about; the period between 50,000 and 3,000 years ago in the Late Quaternary," says associate professor David Nogués-Bravo from Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate at Department of Biology.

Past extinction periods hold answers

The time between 50,000 and 3,000 years ago was influenced by ice age as well as human impact. More than 65 per cent of the large mammal species went extinct, such as the woolly mammoth and cave bear. Furthermore, genetic diversity was lost, the distribution of species changed and ecological communities were reorganised.

David Nogués-Bravo

"The Late Quaternary is an incredible example of how climate change and other pressure factors affect biodiversity. By using data from the past, we’ll improve the predictions of which species face the largest extinction risk in the future," says David Nogués-Bravo.

Results aimed at UN level

Rethinking the scientific methods and achieving more robust results on how species respond to global change is in international demand. In April this year, the UN formalised a new international panel on biodiversity (IPBES). It aims to tackle the accelerating worldwide loss of biodiversity by bridging the gap between policy-makers and accurate, impartial and up to date science.

Research across disciplines

It is the research career programme Sapere Aude from the Danish Council for Independent Research that has assigned the grant to David Nogués-Bravo's project 'Species EXTINCTIONs under climate change: re-evaluating extinction risk'. The programme provides young scientists with the opportunity to lead a research project for up to four years. The project will span the subjects of ecology, climate research and phylogeography.

Nine grant recipients from the University of Copenhagen

Besides David Nogues-Bravo, six other researchers from the University of Copenhagen will receive appropriations of different sizes from the Sapere Aude programme DFF Starting Grant and two researchers will get grants from the Sapere Aude programme DFF Advanced Grant.

Sapere Aude - DFF Starting Grant:

Martha Sif Karrebæk:
Mother tongue education for linguistic minority children in the superdiverse metropolis of Copenhagen
Department of Scandinavian Studies and Linguistics, Faculty of Humanities

Kasper Møller Hansen:
CET - Causal Effects on Turnout - turnout in the 2009 and 2013 Danish municipal elections
Department of Political Science, Faculty of Social Sciences

Chunaram Choudhary:
Proteomic investigation of systemic responses to innate immune and inflammatory cytokine receptor signaling
The Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Protein Research, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences

Jeremy Austin Daniel:
Mechanism and specificity of PTIP complex function in B lymphocytes
The Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Protein Research, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences

Nanna MacAulay:
Brain water homeostasis; the vasopressin receptor as the osmosensor and central conductor?
Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences

Kresten Lindorff-Larsen:
Predicting Resistance Mutations
Department of Biology, Faculty of Science

Sapere Aude - DFF Advanced Grant:

Mikkel Thorup:
Efficient Algorithms and Data Structures
Datalogisk Institut, Faculty of Science

Anders Rahbek:
Developing and implementing new bootstrap methods for the econometric analysis of financial and macroeconomic time series data
Department of Economics, Faculty of Social Sciences


Associate professor David Nogues-Bravo
Phone: 35 32 12 58

Communications Officer Elisabeth Wulffeld
Phone: 35 32 12 40