Standard Article


  1. Heikki Seppä

Published Online: 15 SEP 2009

DOI: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0003232



How to Cite

Seppä, H. 2009. Palaeoecology. eLS. .

Author Information

  1. University of Helsinki, Department of Geology, Helsinki, Finland

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 SEP 2009


The basis of palaeoecological research is to use the fossil remains preserved in sedimentary deposits to investigate the history and long-term dynamics of taxa, populations, communities and ecosystems. Palaeoecological methods can also be used for reconstructing past climatic conditions and other environmental factors. Palaeoecological records extend from years to millions of years and can therefore be used for testing the hypotheses of neo-ecology and biogeography under environmental conditions different and more extreme than in the modern Earth. Palaeoecology provides often the only means to investigate species macro- and microevolutionary patterns or rates of speciation and extinction, and slow ecological processes, such as the rise and fall of ecosystems and biomes, species adaptation or migration, and population growth or decline rates. Palaeoecological records also provide unique insights for identifying the ancestry and naturalness of modern ecosystems and are increasingly recognized as sources of baseline information in ecosystem management.

Key concepts:

  • Ecosystem dynamics over long-time periods, niche conservatism, hypothesis testing, transfer functions, background for ecosystem management.

  • Biography information: Heikki Seppä has written the text. He is a Quaternary palaeoecologist and palaeoclimatologist.


  • sediments;
  • fossils;
  • time;
  • ecosystems;
  • evolution