Maria Hällfors

Senior research scientist

PhD, Climate Change Ecology, Assisted Migration
Title of docent in climate change ecology, University of Turku

Finnish Environment Institute (Syke),
Nature solutions
Use of ecosystem information
Address: Latokartanonkaari 11,
00790 Helsinki, Finland

Google Scholar


  • PI in the consortium MUST (Enabling multispecies transitions of cities and regions) funded by the Strategic Research Council
  • PI in BDprint (Measuring biodiversity impacts and their drivers for biodiversity footprints)
  • Task leader in the OBSGESSION project (Horizon Europe)
  • Task co-leader in the NaturaConnect-project (Horizon Europe)

In my research I am interested in species’ abilities to cope with climate change. By using long-term data and experiments, I try to figure out what kind of species are able to shift their ranges or their phenology, or even adapt evolutionary, in order to stay within their suitable niches. I conduct research on the interactive effects of land use and climate change, spatial connectivity, and biodiversity footprints. I also supervise doctoral researchers on these topics.


  • Climate change effects on biodiversity
  • Climate change ecology
  • Phenology shifts
  • Range shifts
  • Assisted migration


I did my doctoral thesis at the Botany Unit of the Finnish Museum of Natural History, looking into a novel approach in the conservation of species, called assisted migration. I defended in 2016 and thereafter spent 1.5 years on family leave. In January 2018, I joined the Research Centre for Ecological Change (REC) at the University of Helsinki as a postdoc to investigate the effects of global change on populations and ecosystems. In REC, I had the opportunity to use a variety of existing long-term data for investigating questions on the effects of global change on species. I gained extensive experience in combining and refining different data sets, sometimes containing millions of records. This work familiarized me with the numerous valuable long-term data sets available in Finland and the methodology to utilize such big data.

In 2020, I started a three-year postdoctoral project funded by the Academy of Finland. In the project I combined my expertise in utilizing long-term data and common garden experiments to study the role of evolution in climate change responses. I have found that climatic preadaptation may affect species contemporary range shift responses (Hällfors et al. 2023). I also compared past responses in phenology to those of today by using two intriguing methods: by transferring an existing approach for measuring local adaptation across space into testing microevolutionary adaptation over time, and by resurrecting historic plant populations from stored seed accessions to compare them with contemporary populations in common garden experiments.

A selection of recent publications

Thorogood, R., Mustonen, V., Aleixo, A., Aphalo, P.J., Asiegbu, F.O., Cabeza, M., Cairns, J., Candolin, U., Cardoso, P., Eronen, J.T., Hällfors, M., Hovatta, I., Juslén, A., Kovalchuk, A., Kulmuni, J., Kuula, L., Mäkipää, R., Ovaskainen, O., Pesonen, A.-K., Primmer, C., Saastamoinen, M., Schulman, A., Schulman, L., Strona, G., and Vanhatalo, J. (in press): Understanding and applying biological resilience, from genes to ecosystems. npj Biodiversity

Urban M.C., Swaegers, J., Stoks, R., Snook, R.R., Otto, S.P., Noble, D.W.A., Moiron, M., Hällfors, M., Gómez-Llano, M., Fior, S., Cote, J., Charmantier, A., Bestion, E., Berger, D., Baur, J., Alexander, J.M., Saastamoinen1, M., Edelsparre, A, and Teplitsky, C. (in press): When and how can we predict adaptive responses to climate change? Evolution Letters

Santangeli A. Weigel, B., Antão, L, Kaarlejärvi E., Hällfors M., Lehikoinen, A., Lindén, A., Salemaa, M., Tonteri, T., Merilä P., Vuorio, K, Ovaskainen, O., Vanhatalo, J., Roslin, T., Saastamoinen, M. (2023): Mixed effects of a national protected area network on terrestrial and freshwater biodiversity. Nature Communications.

Aapala, K., Aalto, J., Anu, A., Anttila, S., Hällfors, M., (+15 authors...) & Heikkinen, R. (2023). Ilmasto muuttuu–pysyvätkö lajit ja luontotyypit mukana? Suojelualueverkosto muuttuvassa ilmastossa (SUMI)-hankkeen loppuraportti.

Suppula, M., Hällfors, M.H., Aapala, K., Aalto, J., Kemppainen, E., Leikola, N., Pirinen, P., and Heikkinen, R.K. (2023): Climate and land-use change drive population decline in a red-listed plant species. Global Ecology and Conservation.

Hällfors M.H., Heikkinen R.H., Kuussaari M., Lehikoinen A., Luoto M., Pöyry J., Virkkala R., Saastamoinen M., and Kujala H. (in press): Recent range shifts of moths, butterflies, and birds are driven by the breadth of their climatic niche. Evolution Letters

Hällfors, M., & Dalrymple, S. (2022). Assisted Colonisation and Ecological Replacement. In M. Gaywood, J. Ewen, P. Hollingsworth, & A. Moehrenschlager (Eds.), Conservation Translocations (Ecology, Biodiversity and Conservation, pp. 331-353). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/9781108638142.015

Hällfors, M. (2022). The impact of climate change on species in Finland. Memoranda Societatis Pro Fauna Et Flora Fennica, 98(Supplement 2), 17–26.

Hällfors M. (2022). Luonnon ekovakuutus auttaa joustamaan ilmaston muuttuessa. Blog post on the website of Ilkka Hanski Nature Network.

Antão L.H., Weigel B., Strona G., Hällfors M., (+21 authors), Laine A.-L. (2022): Climate Change reshuffles northern species within their niches. Nature Climate Change

Hällfors M.H., Pöyry J., Heliölä J., Kohonen I., Kuussaari M., Leinonen R., Schmucki R., Sihvonen P., and Saastamoinen M. (2021): Combining range and phenology shifts offers a winning strategy for boreal Lepidoptera. Ecology Letters 24(8): 1619-1632.

Roslin T., Antão L., Hällfors M., (+201 authors), Ovaskainen O. (2021): Phenological shifts of abiotic events, producers and consumers across a continent. Nature Climate Change.

Hällfors M.H., Lehvävirta S., Aandahl T.R., Lehtimäki I., Nilsson L.O., Ruotsalainen A.-L., Schulman L.E., Hyvärinen M.T. (2020). Translocation of an arctic seashore plant reveals signs of maladaptation to altered climatic conditions. PeerJ 8:e10357

Hällfors M.H., Antão L.H., Itter M., Lehikoinen A., Lindholm T., Roslin T., Saastamoinen M. (2020: Shifts in timing and duration of breeding for 73 boreal bird species over four decades. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 117 (31): 18577-18565.

Nordén J., Abrego N., Boddy L., Bässler C., Dahlberg A., Halme P., Hällfors M., Maurice S. Menkis A., Miettinen O., Mäkipää R., Ovaskainen O., Penttilä R, Saine S., Snäll T., and Junninen K. (2020): Ten principles for conservation translocations of threatened wood-inhabiting fungi. Fungal Ecology 44, 100919


Published 2022-06-20 at 10:47, updated 2023-11-10 at 13:22

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