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MILJØFORSK-Miljøforskning for en grønn samfunnsomstilling

Climate Change Impacts and Biodiversity Interactions in Nordic Salt Marshes

Awarded: NOK 3.3 mill.

NordSalt will 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 NordSalt 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 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.

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.

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MILJØFORSK-Miljøforskning for en grønn samfunnsomstilling