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MILJØFORSK-Miljøforskning for en grønn samfunnsomstilling

Holistic evaluation and restoration measures of human impacts on freshwater ecosystems across biogeographical gradients

Alternative title: Adaptive tiltak og evalueringer for å redusere mennesklige påvirkninger på økosystemer i ferskvann over en biogeografisk gradient.

Awarded: NOK 3.0 mill.

Freshwater ecosystems are under intense pressure from various human impacts, posing a significant challenge to freshwater biodiversity and the well-being of communities. The ecological processes in freshwater play a crucial role in maintaining essential ecosystem services such as water filtration and food production. To counteract this negative pressure, it is vital to understand how ecological processes change in response to environmental shifts. Additionally, there is a growing need to anticipate changes that can be made to mitigate these adverse effects. FreshRestore is an international Biodiversa project dedicated to generating knowledge in this field. The project involves partners from Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Spain. We aim to collect, integrate, and analyze data on freshwater ecosystems and human impacts across partner countries to understand how to prevent negative effects on these crucial ecosystems in the future. We utilize information ranging from forest types in an area, human disturbance indices, food webs in lakes, to size distributions of fish populations. We are developing statistical models that incorporate various types of data to forecast the ecological significance of nature-based restoration measures. We will evaluate potential measures, such as planting or conserving vegetation buffers around water bodies, from a socio-economic perspective to identify the best nature-based solutions in Europe for the future.

Freshwater ecosystems are under tremendous anthropogenic stress both at a global scale (e.g. from climate change) and also at catchment scales (e.g. from land use). This is not only problematic for biodiversity, but also for human prosperity as a functional freshwater ecosystem provides a range of ecosystem services. A key challenge of the 21st century is therefore to understand and predict how freshwater ecosystems respond to the suite of stressors, and concurrently how we can sustain and restore these systems at a large scale. To achieve this task we need a coherent framework to understand and predict how the suite of stressors influences functional diversity, as the target for mitigation measures, in freshwater systems. Our project, FreshRestore, will use lake ecosystems across Fennoscandia as a model system. The project is based upon existing datasets of abiotic parameters, fish community and population structure and trophic diversity from stable isotopes across large environmental gradients in Fennoscandia. These datasets, collated by consortium members will be expanded and merged with information on climate, land- and waterscape utilization as well as restoration and mitigation efforts (e.g. habitat restorations, wetlands, regrowth of forest and buffer zones). We will develop and employ an integrative modeling framework estimating and merging demographic traits with information on trophic diversity and niche utilization from stable isotope analyses, and how the outcome varies with anthropogenic stressors. The resulting scenarios will be tested for generality at European scale by including case-studies areas with less available data (Spain). We will also combine the ecological knowledge with socio-economic models to evaluate the cost-efficiency of different nature based solutions (e.g. altered land use) and assess how to improve biodiversity in lakes through simulations of different implementations.

Funding scheme:

MILJØFORSK-Miljøforskning for en grønn samfunnsomstilling