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Arctic Ecosystem Ecology

We work to advance our understanding of the function and structure of the biotic and abiotic components of Arctic ecosystems, how they interact and how they respond to environmental change. This allows us to make reliable ecological predictions and develop our insight into possible feedback mechanisms, including potential links to global dynamics. These overarching goals are achieved through a combination of monitoring and research.

The world is changing, and in particular high latitude regions are experiencing rapid environmental change. These changes affect the organisms living there and the way they interact, and they will ultimately affect the entire ecosystem, sending the Arctic regions on an unknown trajectory that may include biodiversity losses as well as changes in ecosystem feedback mechanisms.

We aim to unravel the players and the interactions in Arctic ecosystems and to understand the underlying drivers of change. Our core activities therefore include:

  • unravelling how Arctic ecosystems are structured, how they function, and how and why Arctic ecosystems and their inhabitants are responding to environmental change
  • quantifying Arctic carbon cycling, greenhouse gas exchanges and ecosystem-atmosphere interactions
  • developing and implementing research and monitoring in the pan-Arctic region
  • providing knowledge informing stakeholder decision-making via input to international assessments. .

Research areas in brief

Biodiversity in a changing Arctic

Photo: Lars Holst Hansen ©
Photo: Lars Holst Hansen ©

Species and their interactions are keys to the function of ecosystems, and we therefore work to map out Arctic ecosystems in detail to determine the players, how they interact, which are the functionally most important species and the main drivers (biotic and abiotic) in the system. Through a combination of long-term monitoring and process-oriented research projects, we aim to understand the mechanisms and processes underlying Arctic biodiversity change.

Read more about one of our projects here.

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Linking movement and population ecology of Arctic animals

Photo: Lars Holst Hansen ©
Photo: Lars Holst Hansen ©

Recent technological advances have propelled the field of movement ecology into a ‘golden age’. Analyses of animal movement and associated bio-logging data can provide a detailed understanding of individuals’ decision making in dynamic environments and how animals optimise their energetic balance and fitness. Movement ecology thus offers a fundamental link between animal behaviour, landscape ecology, energetics and population ecology. Using selected Arctic model species, we work to:

  1. implement a variety of statistical models for the analysis of movement data collected using different technologies
  2. acquire a mechanistic understanding of individual-based movement processes across the annual cycle in Arctic landscapes and oceans
  3. use the acquired knowledge in dynamic simulation models to provide robust predictions of population-level consequences of future environmental and climatic change.

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Arctic seabird ecology

Photo: Morten Frederiksen ©
Photo: Morten Frederiksen ©

Seabirds are keystone species in the Arctic because they link marine and terrestrial ecosystems. They are also an important cultural resource for Arctic communities. Environmental change caused by human challenges seabirds with cascading effects throughout the terrestrial and marine environments. We strive to understand the drivers of population dynamics in seabirds in Greenland, the Arctic and the greater North Atlantic by using methods from population and movement ecology.

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Ecosystem-atmosphere interactions and greenhouse gas exchange in the Arctic

Photo: Johan Scheller ©
Photo: Johan Scheller ©

Arctic terrestrial ecosystems are extremely sensitive to the ongoing climate change, and a change in the ecosystem functioning may in turn lead to change in their greenhouse gas exchange, providing a feedback to the climate.

Meanwhile, the natural variability in both climatic conditions and ecosystem processes makes direct climate change-oriented studies quite tricky. Long-term monitoring of climatic forces, ecosystem parameters and greenhouse gas exchange is our tool to obtain a better understanding of feedback mechanisms in Arctic ecosystem-atmosphere interactions.

Read more about our projects here.

 

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Upscaling present and future greenhouse gas exchange in the Arctic

Photo: Efrén López-Blanco ©
Photo: Efrén López-Blanco ©

There is a significant knowledge gap about the current state of the terrestrial carbon budget. While in-situ carbon flux measuring techniques are widely used in ecosystem monitoring, their temporal and spatial coverage is limited. Conveniently, ecosystem modelling and remote sensing are key tools to understanding the Arctic and providing forecasts. We aim to use data-model approaches to upscale the present and future greenhouse gas exchange and its links to biogeochemical processes and the associated climate feedback effects. To this end, long-term monitoring will be blended with established but novel carbon cycle modelling frameworks and modern future climate projections.

Read more about our projects here.

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