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Work Package 2

WORK PACKAGE 2. Integrative paleo- and macroecological broadscale perspective.

Aim: To provide an understanding on longterm evolutionary and biogeographic build-up of megafauna functional structure worldwide over the last 40 million years and their ecosystem consequences, to provide a basis for understanding and reconstructing megafauna in the Anthropocene. This includes assessing the sensitivity of megafauna functional structure to climate.

Background: We only have a rudimentary understanding of the factors that have driven the functional build-up of megafauna worldwide across the last 40 million years and their ecological impacts. WP2 will elucidate how functional complexity has built up, notably how predictable this has been (vs. historically contingent), and (building on WP1) assess ecosystem consequences. Given that climate has varied immensely through this period, sometimes causing strong faunal changes, it will also address climate impacts on megafauna functional structure to provide a basis for predicting future climate change impacts.

Methodology: Apply macroecological analyses to the rich fossil record for megafauna globally. The paleobiological data (distributions, traits) will come from PaleoBioDB (repository for paleo data), digitizing literature data and via collaborations with paleobiologists. To be able to represent evolutionary dynamics, we will also build a first phylogeny covering all known Cenozoic megafauna mammals, building on our methodology for a phylogeny for all late-Quaternary mammal species. Data on distributions and functional traits of extant megafauna species will also be included. Food web structure will be reconstructed by Gravel et al.’s size-based approach based on predator-prey relations. We will use macroecological statistical approaches to elucidate spatiotemporal dynamics in functional structure and test for climate effects. Ecosystem effects will be modelled using a mechanistic approach.