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Mapping biodiversity cradles and graves

Project description

Uncovering the mechanisms of biodiversity

Life on Earth is characterised by a vast diversity of species. As part of this ecosystem, humans are reliant on a large number of species for food and general well-being. Therefore, preserving biodiversity is vitally important to our daily lives. While the mechanisms behind the magnification and shrinkage of this diversity are broadly understood, where and how it can be lost, remains largely unknown. The EU-funded MAPAS project will use a novel approach to explain the origins of species as well as their development and extinction. It will use a groundbreaking multidisciplinary approach to study millions of years of evolution, improving our understanding of biodiversity and how to protect it.


Diversity is the most important asset of life on Earth. Estimates indicate that there are more than 8 million species providing us food, well-being and health. Since Darwin and Mendel, we started to understand how diversity is selected and inherited. However, where and why biodiversity originates and vanishes are fundamental questions yet to be answered. Today, we are witnessing the 6th mass extinction and thus, to maintain high levels of biodiversity for future generations, we need to protect not only current biodiversity hotspots, but also evolutionary cradles of future biodiversity. Global biodiversity patterns have been studied by biogeographers and palaeontologists aiming to unveil general rules of life. But here, instead of focussing on patterns, I propose to focus on modelling and mapping processes through deep time (e.g. species origination and extinction). MAPAS aims to test the influence of different biotic and abiotic drivers in processes generating biodiversity, and answer theoretical and practical research questions involving where and why species originate, spread and vanish. MAPAS will pioneer the study of deep-time geographic diversification dynamics with an unprecedented time-frame. I plan to produce palaeoclimatic simulations for the entire Phanerozoic (the last 540 million years) and a ground-breaking spatially-explicit mechanistic model to generate the first maps of the geographical distribution of evolutive processes across deep time. The results of this decidedly ambitious project will open new horizons for research, bringing palaeontological, biogeographical and ecological schools together, and will provide important insights for conservation efforts.

Host institution

Net EU contribution
€ 1 499 923,00
36310 Vigo Pontevedra

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Noroeste Galicia Pontevedra
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 1 499 923,00

Beneficiaries (1)