Modelling terrestrial biodiversity in the past

How has terrestrial biodiversity changed over time?

Previous modelling studies of vegetation have generally used a small number of plant functional types to understand how the terrestrial biosphere responds to climate changes. Whilst being useful for understanding first order climate feedbacks, this climate-envelope approach makes a lot of assumptions about past vegetation being very similar to modern. A trait-based method has the advantage for paleo modelling in that there are substantially less assumptions made.

In a novel use of the trait-based dynamic vegetation model JeDi, forced with output from climate model HadCM3, we explore past biodiversity and vegetation carbon changes. We use JeDi to model an optimal 2000 combinations of fifteen different traits to enable assessment of the overall level of biodiversity.

This work provides original insights into the response of vegetation and terrestrial carbon to climate and hydrological changes in high carbon dioxide climates over time. We evaluate how the location of biodiversity hotspots and species richness in past greenhouse climates is different to the present day.