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Objective 2

Objective 2: Assessment of long-term historical constraints on global and regional patterns in functional diversity of mammals, a key consumer group:

Mammals constitute a group of particular importance for ecosystem functioning and thus of special relevancy for the ‘historical constraints’ hypothesis. While biodiversity effects studies often focus on effects within trophic levels (horizontal diversity), interactions across trophic levels (vertical diversity) may also be important. As for plants, there is evidence that mammal species diversity is affected by historical factors and can be linked to past climate change. For mammals, an important additional factor is prehistoric human impact, which is increasingly seen as the main drivers of the massive Late Quaternary losses of especially larger mammals, hypothesized to have had major consequences for ecosystem functioning.

The HISTFUNC project will link several very large data sets on mammal species distributions across large regions (Europe, global) to functional trait and phylogenetic data and geospatial data on current climate and other aspects of the current environment as well as on paleoclimate to assess the extent to which current patterns of mammal functional diversity (horizontal and vertical) reflects long-term historical constraints.

Impact: As for plants, this unprecedented assessment of the importance of historical constraints will shed light on key potential pathways (including vertical diversity) by which historical factors may affect ecosystem functioning. This assessment will also be important for nature and landscape management, where mammals and their trophic interactions with plants are often central. This is true for conventional approaches, but certainly also for the controversial Pleistocene rewilding proposal.