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.
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.
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).
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.
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'.
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
The influence of Holocene sea-ice variability on Arctic biota: using the past to predict the future
Towards a first high resolution spatiotemporal reconstruction of Holocene Arctic sea ice dynamics
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)|
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)|