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Understanding climate change and its potential impact on species, populations and communities is one of the most pressing questions of twenty-first-century conservation planning. Palaeobiogeographers working on Cenozoic fossil records and other lines of evidence are producing important insights into the dynamic nature of climate and the equally dynamic response of species, populations and communities. Climatic variations ranging in length from multimillennia to decades run throughout the palaeo-records of the Quaternary and earlier Cenozoic and have been shown to have had impacts ranging from changes in the genetic structure and morphology of individual species, population sizes and distributions, community composition to large-scale bio-diversity gradients. The biogeographical impacts of climate change may be due directly to the effects of alterations in temperature and moisture on species, or they may arise due to changes in factors such as disturbance regimes. Much of the recent progress in the application of palaeobiogegraphy to issues of climate change and its impacts can be attributed to developments along a number of still advancing methodological frontiers. These include increasingly finely resolved chronological resolution, more refined atmosphere-biosphere modelling, new biological and chemical techniques in reconstructing past species distributions and past climates, the development of large and readily accessible geo-referenced databases of biogeographical and climatic information, and new approaches in fossil morphological analysis and new molecular DNA techniques. © 2008 SAGE Publications.

Original publication




Journal article


Progress in Physical Geography

Publication Date





139 - 172