Exploring scenarios for linking biodiversity, ecosystem services and adaptive action.
The overall aim of EcoShift is to identify the linkages between ecosystem shifts, biodiversity-and ecosystem services, and local adaptations. Thus, creating scenarios of plausible future changes for the arctic tundra of the Norwegian Arctic and compare these with scenarios developed in multiple sites in the Arctic.
The Arctic is warming 2-3 times faster than the rest of the planet, with unforeseen consequences for biological diversity, ecosystem services and human well-being3. Arctic warming may cause abrupt ecosystem shifts by changing the negative feedback mechanisms that regulates ecological states.
Long-term paleoecological records demonstrate that climate change is an important driver of vegetation change, but also human land use may be important. Satellite remote sensing has revealed increased “greening” and shrub-dominance in large parts of the Arctic, while “browning”, i.e. reduced plant productivity and biomass, is occurring in some places.
These disparate trends may be related to hydrology, permafrost, snow cover and land forms. Large herbivores such as reindeer and moose has previously been documented to counteract shrubification and tree expansion in the Arctic, but the evidence of their impact on ecosystem shifts remains inconclusive. Moreover, field studies on herbivores identify shifts in tundra vegetation from lichen, moss and to more productive vegetation such as grasses and herbs.
Climate-and herbivore-related shifts resulting in new “ecologial states” could be either good or bad depending on the values people ascribe to their associated ecosystem services (i.e. benefits that people derive from nature) and their long-term capacity to support biological diversity and ecosystem services.
Understanding the linkage between ecological states and the functional traits and ecosystem services associated, are crucial for understanding societal consequences of climate-related impacts, and thus for identifying mitigation and adaptation actions for responding to climate change.
The many uncertainties about the causal linkages between ecosystems, biological diversity, ecosystem services and adaptation, is a crucial knowledge gap for predicting climate-related impacts and thereby the action we need to take at multiple levels of governance. EcoShift will use scenarios as a tool to tie together the diverse knowledges and expertise to understand broad-scale ecosystem shifts associated with climate-related impacts, herbivory and other land use changes, and their implications for society.
EcoShift will, in collaboration with the project FATE, employ scenario methodologies to synthesize our current understanding of broad-scale transitions of vegetation and their linkages to biological diversity, ecosystem services, local well-being and adaptations. We build these scenarios on literature review, systematic expert elicitation, and data from the FATE team based on paleoecological data, experimental and observational studies, and ethnographic data on indigenous-and local knowledge. Spatial forecasts derived from the scenarios will be tested using ground truth data from both EsArctic and from the socio-ecological monitoring section of the research porject COAT.