Dwarf-shrubs are a dominant plant functional group across the boreal, arctic, and alpine biomes. In fact, dwarf-shrub dominated heaths and forests cover 58% of the Norwegian land area. While small in stature, dwarf-shrubs play important roles for biodiversity, ecology and ecosystem functioning in the habitats in which they occur. The provide, for example, important food resources for grazers, pollinators, and people; and habitat for other plants, insects, rodents, and birds. Through interactions with belowground fungal networks, they play critical roles in carbon sequestration and long-term carbon storage in soils, suggesting that dwarf-shrubs may play a critical role in feedbacs from land to the climate system. But dwarf-shrubs are also variable, they can be ever-green or deciduous, and differ in their ecological responses, tolerances, and interactions.
DURIN will explore the interplay between dwarf-shrubs and climate across biomes and habitats in Norway, integrating plant physiology, ecology, and ecosystem science. Using distributed observational systems, field experiments, and growth chamber studies; we will obtain fundamental knowledge on how climate change directly and indirectly affects this important plant functional group, and it’s ecosystem functions and services. This improved process understanding will be integrated in land surface and earth system models to understand the role and contribution of dwarf-shrubs in the feedbacks from terrestrial vegetation to the climate system.
Predicting how the biosphere will respond to global climate and environmental changes, and in turn how these responses will feed back to and influence the climate and earth system, is an urgent cross-disciplinary scientific challenge. Dwarf-shrubs are an important plant functional type in boreal ecosystems, and DURIN will use them as a model system to advance climate response and feedback research.
Predicting how the biosphere will respond to the global climate and environmental changes, and in turn how these responses will feed back to and influence the climate and earth system, is a grand and urgent cross-disciplinary scientific challenge. Despite their broad climatic and geographic ranges and dominant ecosystem roles across boreal, alpine and arctic vegetation zones, much remains to be understood about the critical impact of dwarf-shrubs at different organizational levels; from physiological responses to species interactions and ecosystem functioning. Exploring climate-responses and feedbacks across biomes and habitats, these insights will not only further fundamental knowledge, but through also integrating the under-represented dwarf-shrubs in earth system models, develop a more realistic parameterization of terrestrial processes.
DURINs unique multi-pronged empirical approach builds upon existing distributed observational systems, field experiments, and controlled-environment experiments. This enables great flexibility in exploring broad-scale patterns and context-dependencies in dwarf-shrub biotic interactions, and responses and feedbacks to climate across multiple sites. It also allows for detailed quantification of the underlying mechanisms and processes which can then be scaled to an earth system feedback perspective. To facilitate this, DURIN will develop a collaborative workflow facilitating cross-disciplinary knowledge transfer. DURIN is well-placed to conduct critical fundamental and applied climate change research through establishing a new research cluster, drawing together a uniquely-qualified team with complementary skills and expertise from seven world-class research institutions within Norway. The project leadership and partners have excellent track records in relevant fields, and DURIN will provide career opportunities for early-career researchers.