NCoE Tundra (How to preserve the tundra in a warming climate?)
The preservation of arctic-alpine biota in northern Europe is a complex and long-term project. Recent research shows that shrub encroachment and tree invasion on the tundra have been much more rapid than previously thought. These vegetation changes increase the amount of solar radiation absorbed and converted to heat. Increasing density of trees and shrubs also increase the atmospheric content of water vapor (functions as a greenhouse gas). These effects are ominous for the biota and cultures dependent on the tundra, and for the global climate overall.
Most of Nordic arctic-alpine habitats lie in Norway, whereas the dry inland habitats, suitable for wintering reindeer, lie primarily in Finland and Sweden. The issues of this project are very much co-Nordic, and it is therefore necessary to have a common Nordic approach to find solutions.
The Nordic Centre of Excellence (NCoE) “How to preserve the tundra in a warming climate?” looks at these issues with an interdisciplinary perspective, drawing connections between ecology, climatology and socio-economic studies.
A warmer climate threatens to change most of the current tundra to forest or dense scrubland, unsuitable for arctic-alpine plants. Vegetation changes may also speed up global warming.
The aim of this NCoE is to find methods to preserve arctic-alpine biota in a warmer climate. The idea is to use herbivorous mammals to control the expansion of woody vegetation. Recent studies show that forest expansion can be prevented by the combination of relatively sparse reindeer stocks and natural populations of arvicoline rodents.
The Centre will study the dynamics of the natural food chains involving small herbivorous mammals to identify habitats where the impact of small mammals suffices to control the forest expansion.
They will also study the impacts of reindeer on the vegetation and population dynamics of those arctic-alpine plants that are most likely to become threatened in a warmer climate.
What are the conditions for maintaining the economic and cultural viability of reindeer herding and direct land use in order to contribute to the preservation of open landscapes suitable for arctic-alpine biota?
Photo: Johannes Jansson, norden.org