Project groups


Long-term feedbacks among Climate, Earth Surface Processes, Evolution, and Biodiversity: Is Climate Change an Engine of Evolution?

Earth’s history provides important insight into the long-term interactions among climate change, evolution, and diversification of organisms: Cenozoic species development resulted in the present-day biodiversity and in particular the paleoclimate dynamics of the past 8-10 million years have been largely responsible for global species diversity and the distribution of biomes and geo-ecosystems.

Our research focuses on the interaction of organismic-biologic and geologic processes on evolutionary time scales in ecosystems that are largely unaffected by human impact. In particular we are interested in

  • The role of long-term and episodic climate change in the evolution and biogeography of plants and animals
  •  Method development for the reconstruction of evolutionary and Earth surface processes
  • The feedbacks among Earth surface processes, vegetation change, and transient temperature and precipitation patterns on geologic time scales
  • The role of ecological niches as a potential triggers for evolution.

Reconstructing Earth surface processes is a rapidly evolving interdisciplinary discipline in the bio-geosciences. Capturing the relevant system-wide feedbacks that act among e.g. the temporal and spatial development of terrestrial precipitation and evapotranspiration patterns in ecosystems, its interaction with the evolutionary, phylogenetic history of species as well as the segmentation of habitats through geodynamic processes is at the heart of our scientific program. Using an Earth System Science approach project area “Evolution and Climate” therefore aims at integrating science across the different compartments of the biosphere, geosphere, and atmosphere.