Academic Profile

Professor 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.

Research Areas

Spatial Ecology

Study of ecological systems in a spatially explicit and comprehensive manner. Remote sensing technologies -from Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (drones) to space-borne sensors onboard satellites- allow for an unprecedented spatial detail in the analysis of biodiversity responses to environmental change. Together with big data and high-performance computing, this approach holds promise in basic ecological theory and applied conservation.

Ecological Interactions

The impact of animal activity on the responses of vegetation to climate has been considered minimal at the regional-to-global scales: e.g., animals do not feature in most Earth System Models. However, the effects of animals on vegetation - in what are known as top-down effects - are only beginning to be understood. I focus on the potential for large mammal herbivory to modulate the response of vegetation to climate change. My approach focuses on the Arctic tundra and deals with observational data from heavily grazed areas and proxy palaeo-ecological data starting in the last interglacial, ~125k years ago. This research is relevant for future discussion on Nature-based solutions, rewilding, and the field of biodiversity conservation.

Vegetation Resilience to Climate Change

We seek to better understand the strategies that enable plants to survive during long periods of unsuitable conditions, with a focus on the high latitudes. This largely overlooked ability will enable to better understand the resilience and/or persistence of ecological systems and has the potential to substantially modify the inferred trajectories of ecosystems during the Quaternary. Such investigations are now possible due to advances in molecular ecology -most notably environmental ancient DNA, which provide evidence at unprecedented spatial, temporal, and taxonomical grains.

Sea Ice Ecology

We tackle questions related to the effects of Arctic sea ice on climatic and ecological processes, both during the observational record and in the past millennia.

Arctic Holocene Biodiversity

We study Arctic biota/environment relationships at centennial to millennial temporal scales, with the aim to inform current Arctic biodiversity and generate multiple projects in the next decade.

Oxford University Polar Forum

Follow the activities of Oxford-based polar researchers on the Oxford University Polar Forum's webpage and on Twitter @OxPolar


Undergraduate teaching

Professor Macias-Fauria contributes to the core 'Earth System Processes' course for the Preliminary Examination. He also teaches in the Final Honour School Option foundational course '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 option module 'Rewilding' within the MSc Biodiversity, Conservation and Management.

Current Graduate Research Students

Recent Graduate Research Students

Marcus Spiegel
Completed DPhil in 2023

Influence of reindeer herbivory on Arctic ecosystem structure and functioning across spatial and temporal scales

William Hartz
Completed DPhil in 2022
Sources and Processes of Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances in Snow and Ice on Svalbard (co-supervised with Dr Stuart Robinson, Earth Sciences, Oxford)
Nicola Kühn
Completed DPhil in 2022

Vegetation response to climate change in South Africa: a functional traits-based approach

Georgia Hole
Completed DPhil in 2021

Driftwood as a tool for investigation of Holocene Pan-Arctic Sea Ice Dynamics

Alejandra Mora Soto
Completed DPhil in 2021

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

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)


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  • 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.