Uniting ecologists into a smooth, tasty and potent blend: Blend of the year 2015

In 2005 Stenseth and colleagues wrote a tribune in the Theme section of MEPS ‘Bridging the gap between aquatic and terrestrial ecology’ arguing on the mutual benefit of uniting ecologists to give birth to new science and understanding. In December 2014 we got funded a big project by the Norwegian Research Council  to do just so in Norway.

Figure 1: «While most whisky lovers prefer single malts rather than blends, sciences typically taste best when mixed»

Sustainable management of renewable resources in a changing environment: an integrated approach across ecosystems (SUSTAIN)

Terrestrial, freshwater, and marine ecosystems are currently all affected by major anthropogenic stressors, like climate change and harvesting. Yet, the interactive effects of these stressors remain poorly understood, and they are generally studied separately within each system. Such interactions may alter ecosystem functions and processes in previously unexpected ways, also impacting the ability to provide ecosystem services.

In this project three of the strongest scientific groups within ecology and evolution in Norway are joining efforts to study combined impacts of environmental change and harvesting across marine, freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems. This effort will counteract the currently profound fragmentation within Norwegian environmental science and establish collaboration networks for a new generation of scientists and managers. The project will follow an innovative strategic foresight protocol to link the scientific results with the decision-makers and will output an edited book and a synthesis paper, in addition to high-level and broad audience scientific publications.

Hire a multidisciplinary working force:

A crucial part of the project will be the training of young researchers. A total of ca. 10 PhD positions and ca. 11 postdoc positions will be created, 6 out of which will be financed by the three main partner institutions. This means that in addition to the many senior scientists involved there will be 21 new scientists hires specifically to study how nature reacts to climate changes

What we expect:

The goal of the project is to figure how nature responds to climate changes and figure out what it has to say for animal and plant life in Norway and in the world. The findings should try to provide better advices to nature management bodies about how they can manage the natural resources even during period of major climate change.

How will we do this:

In this project we address the general question of how combined anthropogenic and climatic changes affect different harvested ecosystems (particularly, but not only, in Arctic regions), and how management strategies can be improved to ensure sustainable exploitation and resilience. We follow a strategic foresight protocol with the involvement of a panel of end users and propose a joint effort of theoretical development and empirical analyses of high quality data, from populations to whole ecosystems, to increase our knowledge of the underlying mechanisms of ecosystem responses.

We will then develop an ensemble of ecological models (a description of ecosystem functioning) that allows for a broad exploration of impacts of environmental change and management interventions, across different environments (marine, freshwater and terrestrial), different spatiotemporal scales and levels of organization within ecosystems (from single population to whole foodwebs).

By doing this we will also provide advances in methods, concept and understanding that will be at the forefront of ecology. The great strength of the ensemble approach to modelling - akin to the GCMs in climate research (e.g. IPCC) – is that it will: i) facilitate critical checks the models results against each others, ii) allow for more robust predictions.

Norway being a small part in scientific world, we will use the excellent contacts the three groups have with researchers at universities abroad to make our work stronger.This project is a very user-oriented and useful project where we have an opportunity to make solid and fundamental research of great relevance for climate problem.

Clearly, all ecologists can learn from cross-sectorial collaboration

The three Universities are:


Stenseth N.C., Mysterud A., Durant J.M., Hjermann D.O., & Ottersen, G. (2005). Uniting ecologists into a smooth, tasty and potent blend. Marine Ecology Progress Series , 304, 289-292

Tags: Ecology, Inter-Disciplinarity, Project, Education By Joël Durant
Published Dec. 26, 2014 12:01 AM - Last modified Jan. 6, 2015 8:50 AM
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