Academic Profile

Dr Marc Macias-Fauria is an ecologist who focuses on cold environments. His research is mostly directed at understanding the coupling of physical and biological systems (biogeoscience). He employs long-term ecological records and modelling to understand ecological and biogeographic processes as they are constrained by the physical environment.

He gained a degree in Biology at the University of Barcelona, an MSc at the Department of Biological Sciences, University of Calgary, and a PhD at the Department of Geology (now Department of Geosciences & Geography), University of Helsinki, where he studied the climate controls on boreal forest wildfires, tree-growth, and insect outbreaks.

Current Research

Biogeoscience Lab

We study the coupling between physical (abiotic) and biological processes. Our approach is:

  • Strongly process-based, employing empirical data, mathematical, and statistical modelling;
  • Interdisciplinary: approaches from geosciences, climatology, biology, physical geography;
  • Biased towards cold ecosystems (arctic and alpine);
  • Focused on long-term ecology: time-scales that span decades to millennia (palaeoecology); and
  • Strongly field-based.

Current Projects

Holocene Arctic Sea Ice

This project constitutes a 5-year NERC Independent Research Fellowship and aims at answering questions related to the effects of Arctic sea ice on climatic and ecological processes by producing a pan-Arctic, spatially explicit Arctic Sea ice reconstruction for the Holocene using a suite of environmental proxies, and focusing on the unique characteristics of driftwood as a source of past information on sea ice extent and drift routes. Reconstructed sea ice extent and dynamics will be compared with genetic structures of many arctic populations that point to sea ice as a main driver of their dynamics, and modeled in sea ice and climatic models to quantify the coupling between sea ice and Arctic and hemispheric climate. A wide network of collaborators in this project includes researchers from the United Kingdom, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Canada, Belgium, and Spain. Further information on the project will shortly be available.

Tundra Vegetation Change

Terrestrial vegetation in the Arctic has shown in the recent decades a strong increase in productivity, which has been linked to increasing growing season temperatures and receding sea ice. This signal, termed 'greening of the tundra', is far from homogeneous and varies spatially with substrate, topography, and land use. We study the mechanisms leading to vegetation change in the Arctic tundra, with a strong emphasis on both physical environmental processes and grazing. Although our scope is pan-Arctic, most of our research takes place in Eurasia, mostly in Fennoscandia and Siberia. This research is done in collaboration with research groups from Finland (Arctic Centre), Sweden, Russia, and the United Kingdom.

Macroecology and Global Change

Increasing availability of remote sensing and biodiversity data provides ecologists with an unprecedented wealth of information that can be used to assess at very large scales (continental to global) and high resolutions the status of our planet's ecosystems. Our work aims at investigating the ways in which such information can be extracted in the form of realistic estimates. This research line employs large datasets of geo-referenced data and is done in collaboration with research groups at the Long-term Ecology Lab (University of Oxford) and the University of Bergen (Norway).

Altitudinal Treeline

The transition between montane sub-alpine forest and alpine treeless environments is considered a 'cold ecotone', that is, an ecological transition mediated by low temperatures, especially in the growing season. We study the mechanisms of treeline formation from a spatially explicit, high-resolution approach, using geomorphology, remote sensing, climatology/meteorology, and intense fieldwork and computer modelling to tease apart the different processes finally determining the position of the forest edge and, in general, of trees on slopes. Our results show that many processes other than temperature alone explain treeline position, and that understanding them is key to plan future scenarios of montane forest. Our approach is global, although most of our research is performed in the Canadian Rocky Mountains, in collaboration with the Biogeoscience Institute at the University of Calgary.


Undergraduate teaching

Dr Macias-Fauria contributes to the core 'Methods and Techniques in Physical Geography' and 'Earth System Processes' courses for the Preliminary Examination. He also shares teaching of the Final Honour School Option foundational courses 'Earth System Dynamics' and the optional subject 'The Quaternary Period: Natural and human systems'.

Postgraduate teaching

He lectures the core module on 'Biodiversity Response to Climate Change' and contributes to the core module 'Conservation Biogeography' within the MSc Biodiversity, Conservation and Management. He lectures on 'Earth Observation' to the NERC Doctoral Training Programme students.

Current Graduate Research Students

Maria Dance

The influence of Holocene sea-ice variability on Arctic biota: using the past to predict the future

Georgia Hole

Towards a first high resolution spatiotemporal reconstruction of Holocene Arctic sea ice dynamics

Nicola Kühn

Vegetation response to climate change in South Africa: a functional traits-based approach (co-supervised with Prof Kathy Willis)

Alejandra Mora Soto

Modelling kelp forest distribution in the Magellanic Province, Subantarctic South America

Marcus Spiegel (MPhil)Disentangling the influence of climate change and land management in the Siberian tundra

Recent Graduate Research Students

Andrew C. Martin
Completed in 2019
Long-term interaction between shrub growth and soil nitrogen availability in the Western Siberian Tundra (registered in Zoology, Oxford, co-supervised with Dr Elizabeth Jeffers, Zoology, Oxford)
Henrik Hannemann
Completed in 2017
Optimisation of conservation planning in Europe under climate change scenarios: combining robust species distribution modelling with ecological and economic valuation strategies (registered in Zoology, Oxford, co-supervised with Prof Kathy Willis, Zoology, Oxford)

Selected Publications

  • View Dr Marc Macias-Fauria's ORCID profile
  • View Dr Marc Macias-Fauria's Scopus profile
  • View Dr Marc Macias-Fauria's ResearchGate profile
  • View Dr Marc Macias-Fauria's profile
  • View Dr Marc Macias-Fauria's Google Scholar profile
  • View Dr Marc Macias-Fauria's ResearcherID profile
  • Macias-Fauria, M., Seddon, A.W.R., Benz, D., Long, P.R. and Willis, K.J. (2014) Spatiotemporal patterns of warming. Nature Climate Change, 4: 845-846.
  • Myers-Smith, I., Hallinger, M., Blok, D., Sass-Klaassen, U., Rayback, S., Weijers, S., Trant, A., Tape, K., Naito, A.T., Wipf, S., Rixen, C., Dawes, M.A., Wheeler, J., Buchwal, A., Baittinger, C., Macias-Fauria, M., Forbes, B.C., Lévesque, E., Boulanger-Lapointe, N., Beil, I., Ravolainen, V. and Wilmking, M. (2014) Methods for measuring arctic and alpine shrub growth: A review. Earth-Science Reviews, 140: 1-13.
  • Seddon, A.W.R., Mackay, A.W., Baker, A.G., Birks, H.J.B., Breman, E., Buck, C.E., Ellis, E.C., Froyd, C.A., Gill, J.L., Gillson, L., Johnson, E.A., Jones, V., Juggins, S., Macias-Fauria, M., Mills, K., Morris, J.L., Nogués-Bravo, D., Punyasena, S.W., Roland, T.P., Tanentzap, A.J., Willis, K.J., et al. (2014) Looking forward through the past: identification of 50 priority research questions in palaeoecology. Journal of Ecology, 102(1): 256-267.

'Reconstats' calculates the significance of dendroclimatic reconstruction statistics based on simple and multiple linear regressions.

Download 'Reconstats' software.