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MegaComplexity

The project is funded by Danish Council for Independent Research|Natural Sciences from 2020 –2025

What impact does big animals (megafauna) have on nature around the world? That is the question MegaComplexity seeks to answer. 80% of Earth’s living biomass consists of plants, thereby making the basic structure of the natural ecosystem – especially on land. Traditionally, vegetation is thought to be primarily regulated by climate, soil, and water. However, the increasing evidence of megafauna’s substantial shaping effects now challenges that. It is unknown how strong and general these megafauna effects are on vegetation. The project seeks to provide insight into that through Big Data analyses of satellite-imagery of vegetation and data on megafauna, climate, etc. The project further aims to discover if the complexity of megafauna (different types of herbi- and carnivores) increases the variation in vegetation and, thereby, the collective biodiversity of a landscape. The project will investigate three systems: 1) The global network of natural reserves, i.e., established nature and the backbone in nature conservation efforts. 2) The big areas in the world that each year are abandoned by agriculture production (one reason being that people move from rural to urban areas), i.e., young ecosystems that represent an important possibility for more space for nature. 3) Chosen rewilding projects, where megafauna has been reintroduced in the last decades to experiment on megafauna effects, e.g., Yellowstone. The project thereby gives insights into how natural ecosystems work. It further provides important background knowledge to how we best design nature restoration and manage the world’s natural reserves and nature in general.             

Principal investigator

Jens-Christian Svenning

Professor, Centre Director Department of Biology - Ecoinformatics and Biodiversity

Affiliated staff

Bernard Olivier

PhD Student Department of Biology - Ecoinformatics and Biodiversity

Lanhui Wang

Postdoc Department of Biology - Ecoinformatics and Biodiversity