Aarhus University Seal


Arctic biodiversity change and its consequences: Assessing, monitoring and predicting the effects of ecosystem tipping cascades on marine ecosystem services and dependent human systems (ECOTIP)

The Department of Geoscience, Aarhus University is Partner in the collaborative project ECOTIP funded by the Horizon2020 programme. Project period is 2020-2024. Allocated funding for AU is 633,365 € with the total sum allocated to the consortium is 6,361,535.75 €.

Project website https://ecotip-arctic.eu/

Announcement by the Faculty of Natural Sciences: English/Danish

Synopsis: ECOTIP will map out past and present Arctic biodiversity and its response to external drivers, and the effects of expanding commercial activities in the Arctic under expected climate change. It will investigate the resistance, resilience and persistence of key ecosystem components to multiple anthropogenic stressors, and estimate their potential tipping dynamics. It will use a trait-based approach in process studies, empirical analysis and numerical models as a novel means of quantifying functional diversity to predict how different anthropogenic forcing scenarios (including climate, invasive species, pollution, exploitation) change biodiversity, productivity and ecosystem services. ECOTIP will engage with indigenous societies and European citizens to provide recommendations for optimizing the monitoring of Arctic biodiversity and ecosystem services, identify adaptation strategies, promote international collaboration and support Europe's endeavors to implement the Paris Agreement and Sustainable Development Goals.

Background: The Arctic marine environment is under rapid change, both in its physical and biotic conditions. The gradual loss of sea ice, increase in temperature, invasive species and compounding effects of additional ecosystem stressors are identified as likely causes of the observed turnover of Arctic species. Other issues of concern are the climatic tipping elements that are known to have affected the region in the geologic past, and that could well affect the region in the future, precipitating a regime shift of unprecedented magnitude. Predicting these changes in the Arctic ecosystem is hindered by several knowledge gaps, particularly in terms of mechanistic understanding of the coupling between drivers and responses. At stake are two important marine ecosystem services that human societies rely on; carbon sequestration with its feedback to global climate, and fisheries production that is the economic lifeblood of many of the local societies of the Arctic.

Research goals:

ECOTIP will improve our understanding of the causes, thresholds and consequences of the ecosystem tipping cascades on Arctic marine biodiversity and develops methods to assess, monitor and predict them. ECOTIP addresses marine ecosystems from microbes to marine mammals, by integrating biological observations into a trait-based approach to marine biodiversity, and by utilising the trait-based approach to link the changes in biological communities to ecosystem functions, and finally to the socio-economics of local communities and ecosystem services of global importance. To obtain this, ECOTIP will develop novel methodologies, concepts and process understanding, both on biological systems and on human systems, and integrate these for the optimal exploitation of the results.

These ECOTIP highlights include:

New observations. It has been estimated that ca. 90% of the Arctic marine species are unknown – for instance, lists of potentially harmful invasive species are largely non-existing, and the potential for any invasive species to establish populations in the Arctic is unknown. ECOTIP will use eDNA to detect invasive species and combine this with laboratory experiments establishing the probability of invasions under current and future environmental conditions.

New process understanding. The amount of carbon sequestered annually by the biological carbon pump amounts to ca. one third of the annual anthropogenic CO2 emission. ECOTIP will provide mechanistic understanding on the unknown processes that are ignored in current model representations of the biological pump, such as autotrophic production by archaea in the twilight zone, export flux due to sinking of small phytoplankton and cyanobacteria, and degradation of export flux by particle-colonising zooplankton – all of which have the potential to radically change the Earth System Model predictions that IPCC and other assessments rely on.

New methods. The new methodology in ECOTIP includes development of paleo-oceanography to investigate the changes in biota over the past millennia, such as the detection of zooplankton remains in sediment cores. This will allow comparisons of past and present drivers of species distributions, and give new insights on the effects of stressors and the speed of the recovery in marine biota.

New concepts. ECOTIP will approach changes in Arctic biodiversity and associated ecosystem consequences through a trait-based approach, where species will be replaced by their functional traits, linked together by trade-offs. This approach provides a mechanistic, predictive link from global change drivers to biodiversity changes, ecosystem functions and services, and ecosystem tipping cascades, and is expected to form a central platform in next generation Earth System Models.

New tools. ECOTIP will develop several tools to facilitate the transfer and integration of knowledge particularly from scientific models, and experts with traditional knowledge and experience. In particular, ECOTIP will use Bayesian networks which can both be used to predict the ecosystem vulnerability for different stressor combinations, and as a state-of-the-art knowledge-driven tool to enable stake-holder engagement in the co-creation of relevant decision-making protocols.

New interactions. Many Arctic societies rely on the ocean as their main source of income; for instance, in Greenland, fisheries and hunting of marine mammals have been the traditional livelihoods for centuries, and currently, the fisheries industry accounts for 85% of the country’s exports, and employs more than 25% of the workforce. Fisheries operations and management have imbedded in them a wealth of traditional knowledge from these societies and stake-holders. Through stakeholder interactions, ECOTIP will draw on in-depth traditional knowledge of local societies and stakeholders, and bring in cutting edge research and insights into invasive species and their monitoring, ecosystem service changes, predictions of ecosystem tipping cascades, and socio-economic modelling and forecasting. This two-way process will both increase our knowledge on the future Arctic ecosystem, and co-create adaptation scenarios.

Aarhus University contribution: AU focuses on the time perspective of the research questions, incl. past changes in biodiversity and altered ecosystems as a response to environmental and climate change, and changes in traits over time as a response to climate stressors.

AU Participants:

Marit-Solveig Seidenkrantz

Katrine Elnegaard Hansen

Christof Pearce

Hamed Sanei

Henrieka Detlef

Joanna Martin Davies

Tuomas Junna