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Dr Dunia H. Urrego

Dr Dunia H. Urrego

Associate Professor in Biodiversity & Climate Change Director of Equity Diversity & Inclusion for Geography


 Laver Building 806


Laver Building, University of Exeter, North Park Road, Exeter, EX4 4QE, UK


My research focuses on the response of biodiversity to environmental change and human-landscape interactions in tropical and subtropical ecosystems. I use fossilised plant and fungal remains to understand past ecosystem and climate dynamics. I currently lead a group of researchers investigating ecological consequences of megafaunal extinctions, resilience and ecological baselines, the tropical signal of abrupt climate events, and mangrove forest development and carbon sequestration. My early work has highlighted the resilience of Amazonian forests to temperature change and sensitivity to drought, that natural fires and drought drive treeline dynamics in the tropical Andes and that climate change can halt coral reef development in the eastern tropical Pacific. I have worked on understanding how environmental change influenced the development of modern humans in southern Africa and produced the first formal assessment of climate change communication in Colombia. I also led the international network LaACER on abrupt climate change and environmental responses in the American tropics (


Google scholar profile:


PhD in Biological Sciences, Florida Institute of Technology, United States
BEng in Forest engineering, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Colombia


2023-present Associate Professor in Biodiversity and Climate Change, University of Exeter, UK.
2018-2023 Senior Lecturer in Physical Geography, University of Exeter, UK.
2017-2019 Visiting scientist, Department of Physical Geography, Utrecht University, Netherlands.
2013-2018 Lecturer in Physical Geography, University of Exeter, UK.
2010-2013 Postdoctoral researcher ERC-CNRS, Université Bordeaux, France.
2009-2010 Adjunct professor, Department of Biology, Florida Institute of Technology, USA.
2006-2010 Postdoctoral researcher, Department of Biology, Florida Institute of Technology, USA

Research group links

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Research interests

My main research interests are biodiversity and climate change in the tropical Andes and Amazonia. I have worked for 25 years at the interface between the biosphere, the climate system, and human and social systems, understanding how biodiversity responds to environmental change, the functioning of the climate system and human-landscape interactions. 

Research projects

BioResilience: Biodiversity resilience and ecosystem services in post-conflict socio-ecological systems in Colombia - NERC/AHRC

This project will examine the long-term resilience of Colombian forest ecosystems to environmental and climatic changes and improve understanding of the future implications of forest degradation for Colombian society. We focus on forests that are not pristine in that they are used by local communities and are affected by logging and fire. BioResilience fills a research gap in understanding how forests, which may be regarded as biologically 'degraded', have undergone changes in biodiversity, in ecosystem services, and in how they participate in local and global cycles of carbon and energy. The project will integrate ecological and socio-cultural research and focus on existing cultures of biodiversity conservation. This understanding is essential if the scientific evidence is to be integrated into long-term management plans and policy, as forest degradation in Colombia is strongly associated with changes to the fabric of social life, including the effects of sustained conflict. 

Mangrove ecosystem functioning and degradation in a delta under pressure

This project aims to assess the effects of human interventions on mangrove ecosystem functioning in the Magdalena River Delta, Colombia. We are working with high-school students and teachers from Colegio San Jose in Barranquilla ( with the aim to foster knowledge transfer and increase public awareness on ecosystem services provided by mangrove forests. This is a seed money project with funding from the Future Deltas Initiative at Utrecht University, Netherlands (, and the Strategic Development Fund from the College of Life and Environmental Sciences at Exeter.

Read our expedition blog here:

See our dissemination video here:

The origins of plant domestication in the upper Madeira River basin in lowland South America - NERC/FAPEAM

The principal aim of this project is to combine paleoecology and archaebotany to trace the origin, dispersal and phylogeography of native Amazonian crops. We are currently working in lakes and archaeological sites both in Brazil and Bolivia, Upper Madeira region in Western Amazonia. Funding support is provided by NERC (UK) and Fapeam (Brazil). More information can be found here:

Abrupt Climate Changes and Environmental Responses - ACER

ACER is an International Focus Group of INQUA (International Quaternary Association) that aims to understand the timing, frequency and amplitude of the rapid climate variability and the feedback mechanisms involved. This will help us in understanding the abrupt CO2 and CH4 changes recorded in ice cores and inform our predictions of the responses of the earth system to accelerated climate change. LaACER is a project under ACER that focuses in the regional signature of abrupt climate events in the American tropics. ACER and LaACER have received funding from INQUA, PAGES and NERC. Read more here:

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Journal articles

Sayedi SS, Abbott BW, Vannière B, Leys B, Colombaroli D, Romera GG, Słowiński M, Aleman JC, Blarquez O, Feurdean A, et al (2024). Assessing changes in global fire regimes. Fire Ecology, 20(1).
Hapsari KA, Borrero Avellaneda WJ, van Maanen B, Restrepo JC, Polanía J, Sibaja Castillo DJ, Gómez Vargas LF, Rodríguez-Rodríguez JA, Urrego DH (2024). Structure and carbon stocks of accessible mangroves under different conservation status in the Colombian Caribbean. Forest Ecology and Management, 564 Abstract.
Pym F, Franco-Gaviria F, Garcia Espinoza I, Urrego D (2023). The timing and ecological consequences of Pleistocene megafaunal decline in the eastern Andes of Colombia. Quaternary Research, 1-17. Abstract.
Espinoza IG, Franco-Gaviria F, Castañeda I, Robinson C, Room A, Berrío JC, Armenteras D, Urrego DH (2022). Holocene Fires and Ecological Novelty in the High Colombian Cordillera Oriental. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, 10
Hagemans K, Urrego DH, Gosling WD, Rodbell DT, Wagner-Cremer F, Donders TH (2022). Intensification of ENSO frequency drives forest disturbance in the andes during the holocene. Quaternary Science Reviews, 294
Maezumi SY, Elliott S, Robinson M, Betancourt CJ, Gregorio de Souza J, Alves D, Grosvenor M, Hilbert L, Urrego DH, Gosling WD, et al (2022). Legacies of Indigenous land use and cultural burning in the Bolivian Amazon rainforest ecotone. Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological sciences, 377(1849). Abstract.
Franco-Gaviria F, Amador-Jimenez M, Millner N, Durden C, Urrego D (2022). Quantifying resilience of socio-ecological systems through dynamic Bayesian networks. Frontiers in Forests and Global Change
van der Sande MT, Bush MB, Urrego DH, Silman M, Farfan-Rios W, García Cabrera K, Shenkin A, Malhi Y, McMichael CH, Gosling W, et al (2021). Modern pollen rain predicts shifts in plant trait composition but not plant diversity along the Andes–Amazon elevational gradient. Journal of Vegetation Science, 32(1). Abstract.
Oughton JW, Urrego DH (2021). Testing the Tropical Trigger Hypothesis of Abrupt Climate Variability. Frontiers in Earth Science, 9 Abstract.
Xie D, Schwarz C, Bruckner M, Kleinhans M, Urrego D, Zhou Z, Van Maanen B (2020). Mangrove diversity loss under sea-level rise triggered by bio-morphodynamic feedbacks and anthropogenic pressures. Environmental Research Letters
de Souza JG, Robinson M, Maezumi SY, Capriles J, Hoggarth JA, Lombardo U, Novello VF, Apaéstegui J, Whitney B, Urrego D, et al (2019). Climate change and cultural resilience in late pre-Columbian Amazonia. Nat Ecol Evol, 3(7), 1007-1017. Abstract.  Author URL.
Hagemans K, Tóth C-D, Ormaza M, Gosling W, Urrego DH, León-Yánez S, Wagner-Cremer F, Donders T (2019). Modern pollen-vegetation relationships along a steep temperature gradient in the Tropical Andes of Ecuador. Quaternary Research, 92, 1-13.
DANIAU A-L, Desprat S, Davis B, Ruis D, Marquer L, Montade V, Bremond L, Fletcher W, Aleman J, Morales del Molino C, et al (2019). Terrestrial plant microfossils in palaeoenvironmental studies, pollen, microcharcoal and phytolith. Towards a comprehensive understanding of vegetation, fire and climate changes over the past one million years. Revue de Micropaléontologie, 63, 1-35.
Maezumi Y, Robinson ME, de Souza J, Urrego DH, Shaan D, Iriarte J, Alves D (2018). New Insights from Pre-Columbian Land Use and Fire Management in Amazonian Dark Earth Forests. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, 6(111). Abstract.
Sánchez Goñi MF, Desprat S, Fletcher WJ, Morales-Molino C, Naughton F, Oliveira D, Urrego DH, Zorzi C (2018). Pollen from the deep-sea: a breakthrough in the mystery of the ice ages. Frontiers in Plant Science, 9 Abstract.
Maezumi SY, Alves D, Robinson M, de Souza JG, Levis C, Barnett RL, Almeida de Oliveira E, Urrego D, Schaan D, Iriarte J, et al (2018). The legacy of 4,500 years of polyculture agroforestry in the eastern Amazon. Nat Plants, 4(8), 540-547. Abstract.  Author URL.
Schiferl JD, Bush MB, Silman MR, Urrego DH (2018). Vegetation responses to late Holocene climate changes in an Andean forest. Quaternary Research, 89(1), 60-74. Abstract.  Author URL.
Sanchez Goñi MF, Desprat S, Daniau AL, Bassinot FC, Polanco-Martínez JM, Harrison SP, Allen JRM, Scott Anderson R, Behling H, Bonnefille R, et al (2017). The ACER pollen and charcoal database: a global resource to document vegetation and fire response to abrupt climate changes during the last glacial period. Earth System Science Data, 9(2), 679-695. Abstract.
Puech E, Urrego DH, Sánchez Goñi MF, Backwell L, d’Erricoc F (2017). Vegetation and environmental changes at the Middle Stone Age site of Wonderkrater, Limpopo, South Africa. Quaternary Research, 88(2), 313-326. Abstract.  Author URL.
Valencia BG, Matthews‐Bird F, Urrego DH, Williams JJ, Gosling WD, Bush M (2016). Andean microrefugia: testing the Holocene to predict the Anthropocene. New Phytologist, 212(2), 510-522. Abstract.
Urrego DH, Hooghiemstra H, Rama-Corredo O, Martrat B, Grimalt JO, Thompson L, Bush MB, Gonzalez-Carranza Z, Hanselman J, Valencia B, et al (2016). Millennial-scale vegetation changes in the tropical andes using ecological grouping and ordination methods. Climate of the Past Abstract.
Bush MB, Alfonso‐Reynolds AM, Urrego DH, Valencia BG, Correa‐Metrio YA, Zimmermann M, Silman MR (2015). Fire and climate: contrasting pressures on tropical Andean timberline species. Journal of Biogeography, 42(5), 938-950. Abstract.
Seilles B, Sanchez Goni MF, Ledru MP, Urrego DH, Martinez P, Hanquiez V, Schneider R (2015). Holocene land-sea climatic links on the equatorial Pacific coast (Bay of Guayaquil, Ecuador). The Holocene: a major interdisciplinary journal focusing on recent environmental change Abstract.
Urrego DH, Sanchez Goni MF, Daniau AL, Lechevrel S, Vanquiez V (2015). Increased aridity in southwestern Africa during the warmest periods of the last interglacial. Climate of the Past, 11, 1417-1431. Abstract.
Mander L, Baker SJ, Belcher CM, Haselhorst DS, Rodriguez J, Thorn JL, Tiwari S, Urrego DH, Wesseln CJ, Punyasena SW, et al (2014). Accuracy and consistency of grass pollen identification by human analysts using electron micrographs of surface ornamentation. Appl Plant Sci, 2(8). Abstract.  Author URL.
Woillez M-N, Levavasseur G, Daniau A-L, Kageyama M, Urrego DH, Sánchez-Goñi M-F, Hanquiez V (2014). Impact of precession on the climate, vegetation and fire activity in southern Africa during MIS4. Climate of the Past, 10(3), 1165-1182. Abstract.
Urrego DH, Bernal J, Chiessi C, Cruz F, Sanchez-Goñi M, Power M, Hooghiemstra H (2014). Millennial-scale climate variability in the American tropics and subtropics. Past Global Change Magazine, 22(2), 94-95.
McLauchlan KK, Higuera PE, Gavin DG, Perakis SS, Mack MC, Alexander H, Battles J, Biondi F, Buma B, Colombaroli D, et al (2014). Reconstructing Disturbances and Their Biogeochemical Consequences over Multiple Timescales. BioScience, 64(2), 105-116.
Urrego DH, Bush MB, Silman MR, Niccum BA, De La Rosa P, Mcmichael CH, Hagen S, Palace M (2013). Holocene fires, forest stability and human occupation in south-western Amazonia. Journal of Biogeography, 40(3), 521-533. Abstract.
Woillez M-N, Levavasseur G, Daniau A-L, Kageyama M, Urrego DH, Sánchez-Goñi M-F (2013). Impact of precession on the climate, vegetation and fire activity in southern Africa during MIS4. , 9(5), 5391-5438.
Daniau AL, Sánchez Goñi MF, Martinez P, Urrego DH, Bout-Roumazeilles V, Desprat S, Marlon JR (2013). Orbital-scale climate forcing of grassland burning in southern Africa. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of USA, 110(13), 5069-5073.
Urrego DH (2012). Abrupt vegetation changes during MIS 6 and 3 in South Africa. Quaternary International, 279
Toth LT, Aronson RB, Vollmer SV, Hobbs JW, Urrego DH, Cheng H, Enochs IC, Combosch DJ, Van Woesik R, Macintyre IG, et al (2012). ENSO drove 2500-year collapse of Eastern Pacific coral reefs. Science, 336(6090), 81-84. Abstract.
Urrego DH, Niccum BA, La Drew CF, Silman MR, Bush MB (2011). Fire and drought as drivers of early Holocene tree line changes in the Peruvian Andes. Journal of Quaternary Science, 26(1), 28-36. Abstract.
Urrego DH, Silman MR, Correa-Metrio A, Bush MB (2011). Pollen-vegetation relationships along steep climatic gradients in western Amazonia. Journal of Vegetation Science, 22(5), 795-806. Abstract.
Urrego DH, Bush MB, Silman MR (2010). A long history of cloud and forest migration from Lake Consuelo, Peru. Quaternary Research, 73(2), 364-373. Abstract.
Valencia BG, Urrego DH, Silman MR, Bush MB (2010). From ice age to modern: a record of landscape change in an Andean cloud forest. Journal of Biogeography, 37(9), 1637-1647. Abstract.
Zimmermann M, Meir P, Silman MR, Fedders A, Gibbon A, Malhi Y, Urrego DH, Bush MB, Feeley KJ, Garcia KC, et al (2010). No differences in soil carbon stocks across the tree line in the Peruvian Andes. Ecosystems, 13(1), 62-74. Abstract.
Power MJ, Bush M, Behling H, Horn S, Mayle F, Urrego D (2010). Paleofire activity in tropical America during the last 21 ka: a regional synthesis based on sedimentary charcoal. PAGES news, 18(2), 73-75.
Power MJ, Turney CSM, and others (2008). Changes in fire regimes since the Last Glacial Maximum: an assessment based on a global synthesis and analysis of charcoal data. Climate Dynamics, 30(7-8), 887-907. Abstract.
Urrego LE, Molina LA, Urrego DH, Ramírez LF (2006). Holocene space-time succession of the Middle Atrato wetlands, Chocó biogeographic region, Colombia. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 234(1), 45-61. Abstract.
Gosling WD, Urrego DH (2006). La Cordillera Central Colombiana transecto Parque Los Nevados. ECOANDES Volume 5. Studies on tropical Andean ecosystems. T. van der Hammen and Alice G. Santos (eds). Publisher Gebrüder Borntraeger, Berlin, 2003 (545 pp. 3 maps, 1 CD‐Rom). ISBN: 3 443 65004 X. Journal of Quaternary Science, 21, 107-108.
Silman MR, Araujo-Murakami A, Urrego DH, Bush MB, Pariamo H (2005). Estructura de las comunidades de árboles en el límite sur de la Amazonía occidental: Manu y Madidi. Ecología en Bolivia, 40, 443-452.
Urrego DH, Silman MR, Bush MB (2005). The Last Glacial Maximum: Stability and change in a western Amazonian cloud forest. Journal of Quaternary Science, 20(7-8), 693-701. Abstract.
Bush MB, Silman MR, Urrego DH (2004). 48,000 Years of Climate and Forest Change in a Biodiversity Hot Spot. Science, 303(5659), 827-829. Abstract.


Lema-Velez LF, Hermelin D, Fontecha MM, Urrego DH (2017). Climate change communication in Colombia. In  (Ed) .
Urrego DH, Bush MB, Silman MR, Correa-Metrio AY, Ledru M-P, Mayle FE, Paduano G, Valencia BG (2009). Millennial-Scale Ecological Changes in Tropical South America Since the Last Glacial Maximum. In  (Ed) Past Climate Variability in South America and Surrounding Regions, Springer Nature, 283-300.
Mayle FE, Burn MJ, Power M, Urrego DH (2009). Vegetation and Fire at the Last Glacial Maximum in Tropical South America. In  (Ed) Past Climate Variability in South America and Surrounding Regions, Springer Nature, 89-112.

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External Engagement and Impact

International recognition, such as international research collaborations, visiting research posts in overseas institutions, involvement at senior levels in international research associations, acting as referee for national and international research councils.

2017-2019 Visiting scientist - Utrecht University, Netherlands. Funded by the Netherlands science foundation (NWO)

Research networks

Lead of international research network: Latin American Abrupt Climate Changes and Environmental Responses (LaACER):

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  • GEO1312 - Fieldwork in Physical Geography 
  • GEO2230 - Reconstructing Past Environments (module lead)
  • GEO2324 - Research design
  • GEO3321/2 - BSc Dissertation




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Supervision / Group

Postdoctoral researchers

  • Felipe Franco Gaviria Ecological baselines and ecosystem resilience in the Colombian Andes
  • Anggi Hapsari - Mangrove forest development and carbon sequestration

Postgraduate researchers


  • Charlotte Durden - Ecological impact of Pleistocene Megafauna extinctions in western Amazonia
  • Ismael Garcia-Espinoza - Vegetation and fire dynamics in the high Colombian Andes
  • Regina Gonda - Environmental impact of pre-Columbian communities in the Purus Madeira interfluve in Central Amazonia
  • S. Yoshi Maezumi - Pre-Columbian Amazon scale transformations
  • Alex Room - Regime shift analysis for palaeoecology

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Office Hours:

Term 3 Monday 14:30 to 15:30 and Wednesday 11:30-12:30

Please email me to book an student office hour appointment and indicate if you want to meet in my office or online. You will receive an outlook calendar event invitation with a Teams link if needed.

My pronouns are she / her / ella. You can hear my name pronunciation here

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