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Ecology and Conservation

Dr Regan Early

Dr Regan Early

Associate Professor in Conservation Biogeography

 +44 (0)1326 259289

 Daphne du Maurier 3.057


Daphne du Maurier Building, University of Exeter,  Penryn Campus, Penryn, Cornwall, TR10 9FE, UK


I lead the FABio research group, which studies the effects of human activity on wildlife around the world. Our basic approach is to use patterns in species distributions to understand many aspects of species ecology – climate tolerances, biotic interactions, population dynamics, phenology – and how these will be affected by changes in climate and landscapes. We work at large scales, using computer models to study hundreds of species across countries and continents. We use our research to help guide conservation, evaluating the effectiveness of current and proposed management strategies, and working with social scientists to study how the choices that people make affect how conservation works. Finally, I think that the most useful science is that which bridges gaps between different research fields and I’m always open to considering new collaborations.

Broad research specialisms:

  • Biogeography
  • The ecology of climate and landscape change
  • Biological invasions
  • Conservation planning


2018 – onwards: Senior Lecturer in Conservation Biology, University of Exeter, UK.

2014 – 2018: Lecturer in Conservation Biology, University of Exeter, UK.

2010 – 2014: FCT Postdoctoral Research Fellow. Position split between the Cátedra Rui Nabeiro (Biodiversity Research Chair) at the University of Évora, Portugal, and the Natural History Museum in Madrid, Spain. Mentor: Miguel Araújo.

2008 – 2010: Postdoctoral Research Associate, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Brown University, USA. Mentor: Dov Sax.

2007: Independent Researcher (funded by a British Ecology Society Small Project Grant), Universidad Rey Juan Carlos, Madrid, Spain.


Research group links

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Research projects

Using naturalised species to understand limits on species geographic ranges: Are a million species at risk of extinction from climate change, as some research suggests? One problem with evaluating this risk is that most information on the effects of climate on species distributions comes from species current native distributions. The effects of climate are therefore mixed up with the effects of dispersal limitations, landscape suitability, and biotic interactions, among other factors. Species that have naturalised outside their native range have often left their non-climatic limitations behind, and provide a wonderful independent dataset to test climate-change risk assessments. My research has found that the direct effects of climate change on species distributions may be much smaller than we expected. But the indirect effects of climate change via changing ecological communities and landscapes may be much greater. A million species may be at risk, but not in the way that we thought. Now that I’ve modeled the effects of climate on native and naturalised species, it’s time to get into the field and test out how non-climatic limitations on species ranges might threaten or protect biodiversity under climate change.

Risk mapping of biological invasions and disease: Having an understanding of the likelihood that a new invasive species will emerge or a disease will break out in a given region would help managers take action to reduce the risk or respond to the event. In collaboration with colleagues from the USA and Spain, I am working on risk assessments of 21st century terrestrial biological invasions globally, and new outbreaks of Chytrid fungus infections in amphibians in the Iberian Peninsula. Take a look at a summary of some previous work relevant to this topic here.

Impacts of environmental change on community structure: A key impact of environmental change is to change the composition and abundance of species in ecological communities, i.e. community ‘structure’. Structural changes have knock-on effects for biodiversity and the ecosystem services on which human societies rely. It is therefore imperative to understand how ecological communities will respond to environmental change, in particular climate and land-use change. Project QuerCom is an international collaborative effort to study the species composition and functional profiles of cork oak (Quercus suber) forests in the Iberian Peninsula. We will ask how cork oak communities respond to different environmental conditions, and how best we can model these responses.

Impacts of climate and land-use change on European biodiversity: European biodiversity is threatened by simultaneous and drastic alterations in climate and how we use our land. Animal and plant species that are driven out of their historic ranges due to changing conditions may survive if they can find suitable habitats elsewhere. But the ecosystems we are accustomed to - the systems of species and environments that are characteristically ‘European’ - will be pulled apart as individual species go their separate ways. EC21C (“European Conservation for the 21st Century”) is a pan-European collaboration that unites ecosystem, population, and species distribution models, with theoretical ecology and social science. Our project evaluates the threats to biodiversity and ecosystem services, and the options for mitigating these threats. More information about the project and collaborators can be found here.


  • 2014 FCT (Portuguese Science Foundation)
    PI of QuerCom: “Environmental controls of community structure and ecosystem function: an assessment with cork oak (Quercus suber) communities in the Iberian Peninsula” (EXPL/AAG-GLO/2488/2013, €50,000)
  • 2013 BiodivERsA pan-European project
    PI of EC21C: “European Conservation for the 21st Century” (BIODIVERSA/0003/2011, €1.2 million)
  • 2010 FCT (Portuguese Science Foundation)
    Individual Post-doctoral Grant: “Species range shifts under 21st century climate change: limitations and conservation strategies”
  • 2009 Brown University Environmental Change Initiative
    Working group grant: “How does phenology determine species ranges and what are the implications for future ranges under climate change?”
  • 2007 British Ecology Society
    Small Ecological Project Grant: “Exploring the mechanisms of range limitation in a declining butterfly: implications for future distributions under climate change”

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Journal articles

Early R (In Press). Associations between a range-shifting damselfly (Erythromma viridulum) and the UK’s resident Odonata suggests habitat sharing is more important than antagonism. Insect Conservation and Diversity Abstract.
Ivory S, Russell J, Early R, Sax D (In Press). Broader niches revealed by fossil data don’t reduce estimates of range loss and fragmentation of African montane trees. Global Ecology and Biogeography
Montesinos-Navarro A, Estrada A, Font X, Matias M, Meireles C, Mendoza M, Honrado J, Prasad H, Vicente J, Early R, et al (In Press). Community structure informs species geographic distributions. PLoS ONE
Early R, Rwomushana I, Chipabika G, Day R (In Press). Comparing, evaluating, and combining statistical Species Distribution Models and CLIMEX to forecast the distributions of emerging crop pests. Pest Management Science
Arevall J, Early R, Estrada A, Wennergren U, Eklof AC (In Press). Conditions for successful range shifts under climate change -the role of species dispersal and landscape configuration. Diversity and Distributions
Estrada A, Morales-Castilla I, Meireles C, Caplat P, Early R (In Press). Equipped to cope with climate change: traits associated with range filling across European taxa. Ecography
Martinez Padilla J, Estrada A, Early R, Garcia-Gonzalez F (In Press). Evolvability meets biogeography: evolutionary potential decreases at high and low environmental favourability. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Early R, González-Moreno P, Murphy ST, Day R (In Press). Forecasting the global extent of invasion of the cereal pest Spodoptera frugiperda, the fall armyworm. NeoBiota
Early R, Keith S (In Press). Geographically variable biotic interactions and implications for species ranges. Global Ecology and Biogeography
Hakkinen H, Hodgson D, Early R (In Press). Global terrestrial invasions: Where naturalised birds, mammals, and plants might spread next and what affects this process. Plos Biology Abstract.
Early R, Hulme P, Brundu B, Carboni M, Dehnen-Schmutz K, Dullinger S, Essl F, Gonzalez-Moreno P, Groom Q, Kueffer C, et al (In Press). Integrating invasive species policies across ornamental horticulture supply-chains to prevent plant invasions. Journal of Applied Ecology
Beaury E, Sofaer H, Early R, Pearse I, Blumenthal D, Corbin J, Dukes J, Barnett D, Ibáñez I, Petri L, et al (In Press). Macroscale analyses suggest invasive plant impacts depend more on the composition of invading plants than on environmental context. Global Ecology and Biogeography Abstract.
Ivory SJ, Early R, Sax DF, Russell J (In Press). Niche expansion and temperature sensitivity of tropical African montane forests.
Ivory S, Early R, Sax D, Russell J (In Press). Niche expansion and temperature sensitivity of tropical African montane forests. Global Ecology and Biogeography
Hakkinen H, Hodgson D, Early R (In Press). Plant naturalisations are constrained by temperature but released by precipitation. Global Ecology and Biogeography Abstract.
Petri L, Beaury E, Corbin J, Peach K, Sofaer H, Pearse I, Early R, Barnett D, Ibáñez I, Peet K, et al (In Press). SPCIS: Standardized Plant Community with Introduced Status Database. Ecology
Estrada A, Meireles C, Morales-Castilla I, Poschlod P, Vietes D, Araujo MB, Early R (In Press). Species’ intrinsic traits inform their range limitations and vulnerability under environmental change. Global Ecology and Biogeography: a journal of macroecology Abstract.
Robinson B, Bennie J, Early R, Inger R, Gaston K (In Press). Sweet flowers are slow and weeds make haste: anthropogenic dispersal of plants via garden and construction soil. Journal of Urban Ecology
Patterson C, Laing C, Early R (In Press). The range expansion of Clibanarius erythropus to the UK suggests that other range-shifting intertidal species may not follow. Marine Biology
Estrada A, Morales-Castilla I, Caplat P, Early R (In Press). Usefulness of species traits in predicting range shifts. Trends in Ecology and Evolution Abstract.
Dougherty LR, Frost F, Maenpaa MI, Rowe M, Cole BJ, Vasudeva R, Pottier P, Schultner E, Macartney EL, Lindenbaum I, et al (2024). A systematic map of studies testing the relationship between temperature and animal reproduction. Ecological Solutions and Evidence, 5(1).
Ibáñez I, Petri L, Barnett DT, Beaury EM, Blumenthal DM, Corbin JD, Diez J, Dukes JS, Early R, Pearse IS, et al (2023). Combining local, landscape, and regional geographies to assess plant community vulnerability to invasion impact. Ecological Applications, 33(4).
Maclean IMD, Early R (2023). Macroclimate data overestimate range shifts of plants in response to climate change. Nature Climate Change, 13(5), 484-490.
Maclean I, Early R (2023). Macroclimate data overestimate range shifts of plants in response to climate change. Nature Climate Change
Cranston J, Crowley SL, Early R (2022). <scp>UK</scp> wildlife recorders cautiously welcome range‐shifting species but incline against intervention to promote or control their establishment. People and Nature, 4(4), 879-892. Abstract.
Gómez-Undiano I, Musavi F, Mushobozi WL, David GM, Day R, Early R, Wilson K (2022). Author Correction: Predicting potential global and future distributions of the African armyworm (Spodoptera exempta) using species distribution models. Scientific Reports, 12(1).
Kenis M, Benelli G, Biondi A, Calatayud P-A, Day R, Desneux N, Harrison RD, Kriticos D, Rwomushana I, van den Berg J, et al (2022). Invasiveness, biology, ecology, and management of the fall armyworm, Spodoptera frugiperda. Entomologia Generalis Abstract.
Gómez-Undiano I, Musavi F, Mushobozi WL, David GM, Day R, Early R, Wilson K (2022). Predicting potential global and future distributions of the African armyworm (Spodoptera exempta) using species distribution models. Scientific Reports, 12(1). Abstract.
Trew BT, Early R, Duffy JP, Chown SL, Maclean I (2022). Using near-ground leaf temperatures alters the projected climate change impacts on the historical range of a floristic biodiversity hotspot. DIVERSITY AND DISTRIBUTIONS, 28(6), 1282-1297.  Author URL.
Thurstan R, Hockings K, Hedlund J, Bersacola E, Collins C, Early R, Harrison M, Kaiser-Bunbury C, Nuno A, Van Veen F, et al (2021). Envisioning a resilient future for biodiversity conservation in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. People and Nature
Vilà M, Beaury EM, Blumenthal DM, Bradley BA, Early R, Laginhas BB, Trillo A, Dukes JS, Sorte CJB, Ibáñez I, et al (2021). Understanding the combined impacts of weeds and climate change on crops. Environmental Research Letters, 16(3), 034043-034043. Abstract.
Wallingford PD, Morelli TL, Allen JM, Beaury EM, Blumenthal DM, Bradley BA, Dukes JS, Early R, Fusco EJ, Goldberg DE, et al (2020). Adjusting the lens of invasion biology to focus on the impacts of climate-driven range shifts. Nature Climate Change, 10(5), 398-405.
García‐Valdés R, Estrada A, Early R, Lehsten V, Morin X (2020). Climate change impacts on long‐term forest productivity might be driven by species turnover rather than by changes in tree growth. Global Ecology and Biogeography, 29(8), 1360-1372. Abstract.
Li X-J, Wu M-F, Ma J, Gao B-Y, Wu Q-L, Chen A-D, Liu J, Jiang Y-Y, Zhai B-P, Early R, et al (2020). Prediction of migratory routes of the invasive fall armyworm in eastern China using a trajectory analytical approach. Pest Manag Sci, 76(2), 454-463. Abstract.  Author URL.
Bütikofer L, Anderson K, Bebber DP, Bennie JJ, Early RI, Maclean IMD (2020). The problem of scale in predicting biological responses to climate. Global Change Biology, 26(12), 6657-6666. Abstract.
Patterson C, Slater M, Early R, Laing C (2020). The status of Clibanarius erythropus after a recent range expansion to Great Britain, with the highest latitude recording of a gravid individual. Marine Biodiversity Records, 13(1). Abstract.
Bradley BA, Laginhas BB, Whitlock R, Allen JM, Bates AE, Bernatchez G, Diez JM, Early R, Lenoir J, Vilà M, et al (2019). Disentangling the abundance-impact relationship for invasive species. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 116(20), 9919-9924. Abstract.  Author URL.
Araújo MB, Anderson RP, Barbosa AM, Beale CM, Dormann CF, Early R, Garcia RA, Guisan A, Maiorano L, Naimi B, et al (2019). Standards for distribution models in biodiversity assessments. Science Advances, 5(1). Abstract.
Montesinos-Navarro A, Estrada A, Font X, Matias MG, Meireles C, Mendoza M, Honrado JP, Prasad HD, Vicente JR, Early R, et al (2018). Correction: Community structure informs species geographic distributions. PLOS ONE, 13(7).
Morrison L, Estrada A, Early R (2018). Species traits suggest European mammals facing the greatest climate change are also least able to colonise new locations. Diversity and Distributions
van Kleunen M, Essl F, Pergl J, Brundu G, Carboni M, Dullinger S, Early R, González-Moreno P, Groom QJ, Hulme PE, et al (2018). The changing role of ornamental horticulture in alien plant invasions. Biol Rev Camb Philos Soc, 93(3), 1421-1437. Abstract.  Author URL.
Day R, Abrahams P, Bateman M, Beale T, Clottey V, Cock M, Colmenarez Y, Corniani N, Early R, Godwin J, et al (2017). Fall Armyworm: Impacts and Implications for Africa. Outlooks on Pest Management, 28(5), 196-201.
Fordham DA, Bertelsmeir C, Brook BW, Early R, Neto D, Brown SC, Ollier S, Araujo MB (2017). How complex should models be? Comparing correlative and mechanistic range dynamics models. Global Change Biology
Early R, Bradley BA, Dukes JS, Lawler JJ, Olden JD, Blumenthal DM, Gonzalez P, Grosholz ED, Ibañez I, Miller LP, et al (2016). Global threats from invasive alien species in the 21st Century and national response capacities. Nature Communications
Farnsworth E, Bajcz A, Drummond F, Bellemare J, Deeg C, Sax DF, Early R, Bertin RI, McKenna KR, Searcy KB, et al (2015). NEBC 120th Anniversary Botanical Research Conference Presentations. Rhodora, 117(972), 507-541.
Bradley BA, Early R, Sorte CJB (2015). Space to invade? Comparative range infilling and potential range of invasive and native plants. Global Ecology and Biogeography, 24(3), 348-359. Abstract.
Early R, Sax DF (2014). Climatic niche shifts between species' native and naturalized ranges raise concern for ecological forecasts during invasions and climate change. Global Ecology and Biogeography Abstract.
Ibáñez I, Diez JM, Miller LP, Olden JD, Sorte CJB, Blumenthal DM, Bradley BA, D'antonio CM, Dukes JS, Early RI, et al (2014). Integrated assessment of biological invasions. Ecological Applications, 24(1), 25-37. Abstract.
Bradshaw CJA, Brook BW, Delean S, Fordham DA, Herrando-Pérez S, Cassey P, Early R, Sekercioglu CH, Araújo MBA (2014). Predictors of contraction and expansion of area of occupancy for British birds. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B, 281(1786). Abstract.  Author URL.
Dawson MN, Algar AC, Antonelli A, Dávalos LM, Davis E, Early R, Guisan A, Jansson R, Lessard J-P, Katharine MA, et al (2013). An horizon scan of biogeography. Frontiers of Biogeography, 5(2).
Dawson MN, Algar AC, Antonelli A, Dávalos LM, Davis E, Early R, Guisan A, Jansson R, Lessard J-P, Marske KA, et al (2013). An horizon scan of biogeography. Frontiers of Biogeography, 5(2).
Sax DF, Early R, Bellemare J (2013). Niche syndromes, species extinction risks, and management under climate change. Trends in Ecology and Evolution, 28(9), 517-523. Abstract.
Bradley BA, Blumenthal DM, Early R, Grosholz ED, Lawler JJ, Miller LP, Sorte CJB, D'antonio CM, Diez JM, Dukes JS, et al (2012). Global change, global trade, and the next wave of plant invasions. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 10(1), 20-28. Abstract.
Guo Q, Sax DF, Qian H, Early R (2012). Latitudinal shifts of introduced species: Possible causes and implications. Biological Invasions, 14(3), 547-556. Abstract.
Schwartz MW, Hellmann JJ, McLachlan JM, Sax DF, Borevitz JO, Brennan J, Camacho AE, Ceballos G, Clark JR, Doremus H, et al (2012). Managed relocation: Integrating the scientific, regulatory, and ethical challenges. BioScience, 62(8), 732-743. Abstract.
Diez JM, D'Antonio CM, Dukes JS, Grosholz ED, Olden JD, Sorte CJB, Blumenthal DM, Bradley BA, Early R, Ibáñez I, et al (2012). Will extreme climatic events facilitate biological invasions?. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 10(5), 249-257. Abstract.
Early R, Sax DF (2011). Analysis of climate paths reveals potential limitations on species range shifts. Ecol Lett, 14(11), 1125-1133. Abstract.  Author URL.
Richardson DM, Hellmann JJ, McLachlan JS, Sax DF, Schwartz MW, Gonzalez P, Brennan EJ, Camacho A, Root TL, Sala OE, et al (2009). Multidimensional evaluation of managed relocation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 106(24), 9721-9724. Abstract.  Author URL.
Early R, Anderson B, Thomas CD (2008). Using habitat distribution models to evaluate large-scale landscape priorities for spatially dynamic species. Journal of Applied Ecology, 45(1), 228-238. Abstract.
Bulman CR, Wilson RJ, Holt AR, Early RI, Galvez Bravo L, Warren MS, Thomas CD (2007). Minimum viable metapopulation size, extinction debt and the conservation of a declining species. ECOL APPL, 17, 1460-1473. Abstract.
Early R, Thomas CD (2007). Multispecies conservation planning: Identifying landscapes for the conservation of viable populations using local and continental species priorities. Journal of Applied Ecology, 44(2), 253-262. Abstract.
Moilanen A, Franco AMA, Early RI, Fox R, Wintle B, Thomas CD (2005). Prioritizing multiple-use landscapes for conservation: Methods for large multi-species planning problems. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 272(1575), 1885-1891. Abstract.


Early R (2014). Distribution ecology – any way forward?.  Author URL.
Sax DF, Early R, Guo Q (2010). Assessing risks of plant invasions in the eastern United States: a biogeographic perspective. Technical Report to the US Forest Service.

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External Engagement and Impact

Committee/panel activities

"Agreed standards for biodiversity models" Working Group 3 of HarmBio (Harmonizing Global Biodiversity Modelling), an EC COST project

Editorial responsibilities

Subject Editor - Ecology Letters

Invited lectures

February 2014: Institute for Integrative Biology, University of Liverpool, UK.
November 2013: Department of Physics, Chemistry and Biology, Linkoping University, Sweden.
April 2013: CIBIO, Porto, Portugal.
March 2013: Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales, Madrid, Spain.
May 2012: Annual Tuartha lecture, Yi Fu Tuan lecture series, University of Wisconsin, Madison, USA.
May 2012: Climate, People, and the Environment Program at the Nelson Institute for environmental studies, University of Wisconsin, Madison, USA.
February 2011: Ecology and Evolution Seminar Series, Imperial College, Silwood Park, UK.

Media Coverage

My research has been featured on media aimed at both scientists and the public, including the BBC

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  • BIO2406 (Biodiversity and Conservation) - module coordinator
  • BIO3419 (Yukon and Alaska field course) - module coordinator
  • BIO3411 (Science in Society) - lecturer



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Supervision / Group

Postgraduate researchers

  • Jamie Cranston Climate Opportunists: a threat to UK Biodiversity and Ecosystems
  • Jen Lewis Spatial dynamics of range expanding gilthead bream in UK inshore waters
  • Shari Mang
  • Christophe Patterson Where did the UK population of Clibanarius erythropus (St Piran’s crab) originate?


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Office Hours:

During term time: Wednesday 14.00-15.00, and Friday 10.00-11.00.

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