Aarhus University Seal

The missing pieces for better future predictions in subarctic ecosystems: A Torneträsk case study

New publication by Pascual, Didac; Åkerman, Jonas; Becher, Marina; Callaghan, Terry V.; Christensen, Torben R. et al.


Arctic and subarctic ecosystems are experiencing substantial changes in hydrology, vegetation, permafrost conditions, and carbon cycling, in response to climatic change and other anthropogenic drivers, and these changes are likely to continue over this century. The total magnitude of these changes results from multiple interactions among these drivers. Field measurements can address the overall responses to different changing drivers, but are less capable of quantifying the interactions among them. Currently, a comprehensive assessment of the drivers of ecosystem changes, and the magnitude of their direct and indirect impacts on subarctic ecosystems, is missing. The Torneträsk area, in the Swedish subarctic, has an unrivalled history of environmental observation over 100 years, and is one of the most studied sites in the Arctic. In this study, we summarize and rank the drivers of ecosystem change in the Torneträsk area, and propose research priorities identified, by expert assessment, to improve predictions of ecosystem changes. The research priorities identified include understanding impacts on ecosystems brought on by altered frequency and intensity of winter warming events, evapotranspiration rates, rainfall, duration of snow cover and lake-ice, changed soil moisture, and droughts. This case study can help us understand the ongoing ecosystem changes occurring in the Torneträsk area, and contribute to improve predictions of future ecosystem changes at a larger scale. This understanding will provide the basis for the future mitigation and adaptation plans needed in a changing climate.