Lost, gained, and regained functional and phylogenetic diversity of European mammals since 8000 years ago

Jack H. Hatfield*, Katie E. Davis, Chris D. Thomas

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Mammals have experienced high levels of human-mediated extirpations but have also been widely introduced to new locations, and some have recovered from historic persecution. Both of these processes—losses and gains—have resulted in concern about functional losses and changes in ecological communities as new ecological states develop. The question of whether species turnover inevitably leads to declines in functional and phylogenetic diversity depends, however, on the traits and phylogenetic distinctiveness of the species that are lost, gained, or regained. Comparing ~8000 years ago with the last century, we show that extirpations and range retractions have indeed reduced the functional and phylogenetic diversity of mammals in most European regions (countries and island groups), but species recoveries and the introduction of non-native species have increased functional and phylogenetic diversity by equivalent or greater amounts in many regions. Overall, across Europe, species richness increased in 41 regions over the last 8000 years and declined in 1; phylogenetic diversity increased in 33 and declined in 12, while functional diversity results showed 20 increases and 25 decreases. The balance of losses (extirpations) and gains (introductions, range expansions) has, however, led to net increases in functional diversity on many islands, where the original diversity was low, and across most of western Europe. Historically extirpated mega- and mesofaunal species have recolonized or been reintroduced to many European regions, contributing to recent functional and phylogenetic diversity recovery. If conservation rewilding projects continue to reintroduce regionally extirpated species and domestic descendants of “extinct” species to provide replacement grazing, browsing, and predation, there is potential to generate net functional and phylogenetic diversity gains (relative to 8000 years ago) in most European regions.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages11
JournalGlobal Change Biology
Publication statusPublished - 7 Jul 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was funded by a Leverhulme Trust Research Centre grant (RC‐2018‐021)—the Leverhulme Centre for Anthropocene Biodiversity. We thank the subject editor and reviewers for their comments.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Authors. Global Change Biology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


  • biogeography
  • biological invasion
  • colonization
  • conservation
  • extinction
  • extirpation
  • functional diversity
  • phylogenetic diversity
  • rewilding

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