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Objective 4

Objective 4: Assessment of long-term historical constraints on global and regional patterns in vegetation-related ecosystem functioning:

Remote sensing data from space-borne sensors provide an increasing number of key measures of terrestrial vegetation-related ecosystem functioning (vegetation types, growth form covers, canopy height, biomass, Leaf-Area Index (LAI), chlorophyll content, or productivity) in high spatial resolution (typically 250-m to ~1-km) on global/subglobal scales, and together with other remote-sensing-based environmental measures set the basis for what is termed the second generation of ecological research. Many of these data are available as time-series, allowing estimation of temporal dynamics in functioning, e.g., phenology.

While these rich remote-sensing data are being used in global-change and ecosystem studies as well as for mapping purposes, they have hitherto not been used for developing a macroecology of ecosystems;  The HISTFUNC project will do so, by providing the first assessment of the role of long-term historical constraints as determinants of global and regional patterns in ecosystem functioning. As part of this assessment, the relative roles of contemporary environment and historical constraints such as shallow-time and deep-time climate change and regional biogeographic effects more generally will be estimated.

Impact: A historically-contingent macroecology of ecosystems represents a truly novel perspective on ecosystem functioning, which has classically been seen as the bottom-up outcome of local environmental conditions, albeit with the additional role played by biodiversity increasingly emphasized. Notably, ecosystem functioning and its dynamic responses to external pressures will then depend on biogeographic history, e.g., via effects on functional complementarity.