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Division of Biogeoscience
Division of Geology and Geochemistry
Division of Urban Geograpahy and Regional Studies
Study Office

P.O. Box 64
(Gustaf Hällströmin katu 2a)
FI-00014 University of Helsinki

Department Office
Institute of Seismology

P.O. Box 68
(Gustaf Hällströmin katu 2b)
FI-00014 University of Helsinki

phone +358 294 1911 (university exchange)
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Send us email (firstname.lastname@helsinki.fi)

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Processes of Evolution and Biodiversity

Kenya

The only source of direct information about the long history of life on our planet is the traces that organisms have left in geological strata. Such traces include fossils in the strict sense, such as pollen grains, mollusk shells, or the bones and teeth of vertebrates, but also the structure and composition of the strata that contain them.

Research in the department concerns especially mammal faunas and vegetation of the past , separately as well as in interaction with each other and with the changing climate. Recently research has focused on the one hand on the late Ice Age and subsequent time (the last 10 000 years), on the other on Neogene time (2-23 million years ago). Important objectives include the evolutionary dynamics (including extinction) of species and communities and the reconstruction of past environments and climate. The research makes use of primary material collected in the field as well as data from databases. Current core methods of fossil-based research include a variety of computational and cartographic techniques, climate modeling, three-dimensional shape analysis, and isotope geochemistry. Related fieldwork is underway in Finland as well as in the Baltic countries, China, and Iran.

Because organisms have a limited ability to adapt to rapid changes, today’s climate change and disappearance of habitats are threats to the diversity of life. Climate change is estimated to change vegetation zones and the ranges of species significantly, and to have unpredictable effects on natural systems. Remote sensing techniques and GIS-based modelling are being developed in the department for assessing the state of biodiversity and the effects of climate change on natural processes and systems. A new research direction is the application of methods developed for study of the past to investigate the present and the future, using ecometric methods that do not depend on the observed occurrence context of organisms.

Ongoing at the Department