In the Nordsalt project, partners from the Nordic countries (Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark) together with Germany assess the nature, diversity, extent and long-term changes of Nordic coastal marsh habitats, to evaluate their role in climate regulation and to assess their vulnerability and change in ecological structure and functions under future climate warming scenarios, local environmental pressures and management decisions. The goal of the project is to assess the nature, diversity, extent and long-term changes of Nordic coastal marsh habitats, to evaluate their role in climate regulation (net greenhouse gas emissions and Blue Carbon storage) and to assess their vulnerability and change in ecological structure and functions under future climate warming scenarios, local environmental pressures and management decisions.
NordSalt will also assess relationships between plant community structure, biodiversity and carbon cycling to evaluate how the marsh habitats provide climate and coastal protection-related benefits to society i.e., ecosystem services. The project has particular focus on carbon sequestration (so called Blue Carbon) and net greenhouse gas emissions (CO2 and methane) in these ecosystems. Detailed field studies of marsh carbon pools and sequestration rates in grazed and ungrazed locations will take place at five case study sites across the range of Nordic coastal marsh habitats. Greenhouse gas flux rates will be seasonally measured at three of the case study sites (Finland, Denmark and Germany). The interactions between marsh plant community biodiversity, soil microbial processes and temperature change for net carbon release and storage will be tested experimentally in a common garden experiment at the University of Hamburg. NordSalt will also explore historical changes in the distribution of Nordic coastal marshes and associated changes in community biodiversity related to climatic and local pressures and management practices, including grazing, which dramatically affect the plant community.
Moreover, NordSalt will evaluate the potential of management of Nordic coastal marshes as nature-based solutions (NbS) in a local, regional and global context. To provide the best basis for these considerations, a comprehensive range of climate and coastal protection-related ecosystem services (ES) of these habitats will be evaluated and discussed with relevant policy, management and local stakeholders. On this basis, NordSalt will inform sustainable management practices under current and future climate settings. To do this, we have held 8 workshops in the case areas with different stakeholder groups depending on our stakeholder mapping process and identification of those most relevant in each region. This has allowed us to co-develop future scenarios with stakeholders around protection and sustainable use of these coastal marsh landscapes. We are now working on developing decision support systems based on the workshops Fuzzy Cognitive Maps, and these will be calibrated and validated by stakeholders in separate case based online workshops in spring of 2023.
We have also completed a large survey of 1000 respondents in each of the case areas in 2022 on the theme of climate and environment, and users' willingness to pay for protection of vulnerable habitats and what they consider more important of climate protection measures or nature protection measures where these differ. We used a panel method where near identical questions are asked two identically set up groups of respondents but where one set get questions that refer to costs associated with their value based statements. We developed the questionnaires in collaboration with the case area leaders and had them translated to the respective languages, and sent out using the company YouGov that has experience with these types of studies. The data has been received for all case areas and an article and a report on these findings will be published in 2023.
Finally, as part of the work in Nordsalt on communication and dissemination, we have also participated as observers at the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD) and its 15th Conference of Parties (COP15) in Montreal, Canada. Our role in the negotiations has been to consider the maturity of blue carbon and carbon credit relative to these salt marshes in Nordic regions. During the project period, this has become more relevant in many global arenas, and there is great drive towards 30% protection of land and sea resulting from the ongoing CBD negotiations on a new post-2020 global biodiversity framework. Several popular science articles and peer review articles are worked on with a basis in this and linked to workshop and questionnaire results.
Globally salt marshes store over 50% of the coastal carbon (termed “blue carbon”, BC) and are responsible for 25-40% of the global oceanic carbon storage. Remarkably we know very little about BC storage, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, habitat and biodiversity loss and ecosystem services in Nordic salt marshes under a changing climate. In NordSalt we will assess (1) changes in Nordic salt marsh habitat distribution, plant community biodiversity, (2) blue carbon (BC) sequestration, GHG emissions and coastal protection as ecosystem services as a function of plant community structure in relation to climate change and local anthropogenic and management pressures. We will combine results from regional and national analyses, case study site measurements and assessments, a long-term mesocosm warming experiment and to assess the current role of these habitats in climate related carbon dynamics as well as their vulnerability to climate change impacts. Most importantly, we will co-produce this knowledge in collaboration with stakeholders that are engaged throughout the project period – and enable the knowledge to be used post-project completion. In collaboration with practitioners and other stakeholders, we will assess the feasibility of and propose management practices for NordSalt habitats as Nature-based solutions (NbS) for climate change mitigation at different levels of governance. We will collaborate with and enable stakeholders to implement our findings into national, regional, European and global climate and habitat policy. Multi-Actor Labs will use qualitative and quantitative tools to support the co-creation exchanges between scientific experts, stakeholders, business entrepreneurs, sector- and administrative representatives. The consortium’s collective expertise, 100+ aggregate years in coastal ecology, biodiversity, climate change mitigation, dissemination and the science-policy-industry interface - providing a good platform for achieving these goals.