Biodiversity and Macroecology

Biodiversity is the variation of life at all levels of biological organisation. Macroecology deals with the study of relationships between organisms and their environment at large spatial scales to characterise and explain statistical patterns of abundance, distribution and diversity.

This research theme is led by Chris Carbone and brings together researchers who believe that an understanding of the evolutionary and ecological basis of biodiversity is necessary in order to conserve it effectively.

It has three main aims: -

  1. To describe patterns of diversity in the biology, ecology and distribution of animal species and their habitats at different temporal and spatial scales.
  2. To test hypotheses about the evolutionary, ecological and environmental processes that may explain the origins, maintenance and loss of this diversity.
  3. To work with practitioners to apply this knowledge in setting priorities for biodiversity conservation.

Our work focuses on following main research topics:

Understanding variation in extinction risk among living species. Projects include - studies of mammals (Guy Cowlishaw), birds (John Ewen) and butterflies, as well as the impact of invasive species on island birds (Tim Blackburn). Extinction is also being studied in recent, sub-fossil and fossil assemblages (Sam Turvey, Tim Blackburn).

Understanding variation in invasion success among living species. Projects include understanding how the characteristics of species, environment, or idiosyncrasies of the introduction process determine which species establish viable populations following release by humans (Tim Blackburn), and understanding the characteristics that determine which species humans chose to introduce (Tim Blackburn)

Life-history evolution, allometry and energetics. Projects include - understanding carnivore predator prey relationships (Chris Carbone), variation in foraging behaviour and ecology among mammals (Chris Carbone, Guy Cowlishaw and Marcus Rowcliffe), comparative physiology (Tim Blackburn) and avian life-history evolution at different spatial and temporal scales (Tim Blackburn).

Setting conservation priorities: Projects include - the assessment and listing of threatened taxa (Robin Freeman) and habitat and biodiversity change (Chris Carbone).

Biodiversity indicators and assessments: Projects include – the status and trends in abundance of species over time (Robin Freeman), regional conservation assessments, and using camera trap methods to monitor biodiversity in protected and wilderness areas (Marcus Rowcliffe and Chris Carbone).

We use modern comparative methods, statistical and mathematical modelling, experimental manipulations, field and laboratory studies to perform this work. The work of this theme is multidisciplinary and involves close collaboration among researchers at the Institute of Zoology and from other organisations.


  • Chris Carbone  
  • Guy Cowlishaw  
  • Kate Jones
  • John Ewen  
  • Tim Blackburn
  • Sam Turvey  
  • Marcus Rowcliffe
  • Ben Collen