Environmental stress has played and still plays a significant role in the evolution and geographical distribution of species. Climatic stresses are environmental factors of paramount importance for biological systems. Numerous examples from terrestrial plants and animals show that, in particular, cold and drought are factors that may dictate the distribution of species. The Section of Soil Fauna Ecology and Ecotoxicology aims to enhance our knowledge and understanding of the interaction between environmental (stress) factors and the evolutionary processes that lead to stress adaptation in terrestrial invertebrates. A major step in our understanding on how climate change alter populations of soil organisms was obtained through the long term field observatory in the project CLIMAITE, a Danish research centre to investigate how climatic changes will affect biological processes and natural ecosystems.
The Section has a strong focus on (molecular) investigations linking information from climate, population studies and physiology (functional genomics). Thus, the research includes identification of the evolutionary forces of environmental characteristics (e.g. mean, variation and predictability), the adaptations in populations (e.g. tolerance), the physiology behind these adaptations and the underlying molecular modifications to achieve an integrated functional understanding. Hereby, a sound understanding of how the environment influences the distribution of biodiversity is obtained, leading to improved evaluations and predictions of the effects on species and populations of future environmental changes.
Climate change will, beyond doubt, have an impact on species like enchytraeids, however, in a non-predictable way. But factors such as extreme events, seasonal and interannual variations are all important factors as well, which can strongly influence the responses in a future climate.
In the PhD thesis of Kristine Maraldo, she investigates the effect of climate change on field populations of enchytraeids dominated by the species Cognettia sphagnetorum. Field populations of enchytraeids were exposed in a full factorial in-situ experiment to increased CO2, temperature and prolonged drought manipulation for three years.
Using basic knowledge about how environmental stress factors, like draught and cold, impact the physiology and genetics of invertebrates, the Section also studies the effects and interactions between different environmental stress factors and exposure to pollutants. Read more here.