ASICS (ASsessing and mitigating the effects of climate change and biological Invasions on the spatial redistribution of biodiversity in Cold environmentS) is a global network of ecologists working on biodiversity in polar and alpine areas. We bring together expertise on species, field observations, experiments, and ecological modelling to answer how global changes are affecting species redistributions in cold environments, and how this knowledge can help us halt the deterioration of these precious ecosystems.
With unprecedented levels of global connectivity, the movement of species around the world has never been greater. And combined with a warming climate, alien invasive species threaten biodiversity in even the coldest environments. We evaluate the state of polar regions under these forces and improve our understanding of the factors setting the current distribution of species.
Many species have limited abilities to respond to climate change, but by examining physiological limits to changes in cold climates, we can understand which species may ultimately prevail. This mechanistic understanding of species physiology provides the key to better predictions of biodiversity redistributions under different scenarios of future climate change. This will help us to prepare future management strategies and policy contents to tackle emerging threats for cold-climate biodiversity. We will also assess the effects of species movements on interactions between species and on community and ecosystem functioning. This will test the stability and/or vulnerability of cold-climate ecosystems towards global change-driven species redistributions.
In 2021, we have contributed with data from Norway to the project databases on alien species in cold environments, and done field work in Svalbard collecting data on alien species (especially invertebrates) in Longyearbyen. We have started to develop models for regional risk assessments, and planning how we best can offer advice on protection and conservation of these fragile polar and alpine environments to appropriate committees, managers and policy makers.
There is growing evidence that the biodiversity of cold regions is increasingly threatened by climate change and biological invasions. We aim to combine existing data with new experiments and observations from polar and alpine regions to better understand the synergisms between climate change and biological invasions on species distributions, to predict how these impacts may change in the future, and to develop mitigation measures to deal with impacts.
a)We will focus on cold environments at high latitudes and elevations, as they are warming at an unprecedented rate and are becoming increasingly vulnerable to invasions under a milder climate. Cold environments are excellent sentinels for change, and can act as natural laboratories in which to study the synergisms between, and the combined effects of climate change and biological invasions.
b)We will use long-term monitoring data for plants and invertebrates, including georeferenced non-native and native species records. These extensive datasets are available from consortium members (e.g. Norwegian data on invasive plant presence-absence in Svalbard and mainland Norway, and on an invasive invertebrate in Antarctica), and will be further enriched by new experimental research. We will develop new analytical tools and scientific insights, using cutting-edge modelling techniques relying on databases with an unprecedented size and scope to improve our understanding of the dynamics of native and non-native species biogeography in cold environments. Our effort will greatly improve the current knowledge of the mechanisms and factors driving the distribution and assemblages of species at local and regional scales.
c)We will focus on plants and invertebrates, whose ecology, fitness and distribution are driven by the microclimatic characteristics of their habitats. By linking the distribution of plants and invertebrates, we will be able to consider and reveal the ecosystem effects of changes of their ecological interactions.