ECOCHANGE - Challenges in assessing and forecasting biodiversity and ecosystem changes in Europe (completed)
Project Leader: Pierre Taberlet, leader of the project; Mary Edwards, leader of the Activiy 2 within the project, Christian Brochmann, leader of the UiO team.
Collaborators: Our consortium combines expertise from 23 partners in 14 countries (see http://www.ecochange-project.eu/ for details)
Funded by: European Commission
Description of project:
A range of advanced modeling approaches has been used so far to assess the impact of global change on biodiversity and ecosystems. These assessments include advanced socio-economic scenarios and yield projections of the distribution of species, communities and biomes and the functioning of ecosystems. Future goods and services are then assessed from these projections. However, four main limitations remain associated with these approaches:
1. knowledge and data of past species’ distribution are still limited, yet necessary for testing them in the past before projecting them to the future
2. we miss sound estimates of species’ long distance migration rates in order to assess whether species will be able to keep pace with rapid global change
3. some key assumptions of models, such as niche stability over time and/or space, are not well tested
4. we need more reliable estimate of uncertainties in model predictions
Our project specifically proposes to go one step further by:
1. integrating different modelling approaches currently in use (niche-based, dynamic, dispersal, etc.), and by developing robust methodologies to estimate uncertainties associated with these projections
2. generating required new data (palaeo & migration) by using innovative DNA-based approaches, and global change scenarios
3. testing niche conservatism and temporal evolution of biological communities
4. using the new data in improved and integrated models to make projections more robust and realistic
5. testing these approaches in case study areas and expanding the current projections to all of Europe.
Our consortium encompasses a wide spectrum of skills required to meet these objectives, it includes the 6 following scientific and technological activities:
1. Assembling available data and complementary sampling
2. New DNA-based paleo data
3. New DNA-based migration data
4. Niche and community stability
5. Improved modelling
6. Integration, conservation and services
The NCB is involved in Activity 2 ('New DNA-based palaeo data'). In this activity, we analyse the vascular plant species composition in frozen biological archives (permafrost cores) using novel molecular marker techniques. While pollen records only rarely allow distinguishing individual species, newly developed techniques based on DNA-barcoding are species-specific and rapid. It allows to screen very old archives for changes in the species composition, and thus for the rate of niche change in the distant past by quantifying the fraction of individuals changing (drop/enter) in historically stable species assemblages. Such analyses will be tested against existing palaeorecords. This will represent the first large-scale DNA based reconstruction of past plant communities through the past half million years, enabling us to study in detail how the plant communities responded (e.g. extinction and migration patterns) to past climatic changes, providing unique information for assessing niche stability over time, and for predicting future biological responses to the current global change in the Arctic.
Our final goal is to provide data, scenarios and associated confidence limits so that policy markers and land managers can use them for anticipating societal problems and for designing sustainable conservation strategies by accounting the most likely global change effects on biodiversity and ecosystems.