Present day processes, Past changes, and Spatiotemporal Variability of biotic, abiotic and socioenvironmental conditions across the Arctic

Project Description
Short Title: PPS Arctic
Project URL: http://www.polaryear.no/prosjekter/PPSArcticNorway
Proposal URL: http://classic.ipy.org/development/eoi/proposal-details.php?id=151
The PPS Arctic is a multidisciplinary research cluster composed of 9 EOI's, (cf. 1.6 & 3.11) jointly seeking to explore
current processes, past changes and spatiotemporal variability of biotic, abiotic, and socio-environmental conditions and
resource components along and across the transition zone between arctic and boreal regions. This zone, the tundra-taiga ecotone
varies dramatically in width (up to hundreds of kilometres) throughout the circum-arctic North and has thus a recognized exceptional
importance, in terms of global vegetation, climate, biodiversity and human settlement. Further, the particular vulnerability of
the zone to changes in climate and land use is recognized, along with concern for subsequent alterations and shifts of its position
with consequences for the entire arctic region through feedback mechanisms. Despite this recognition, comprehensive and large
scale multidisciplinary scientific focus incorporating cause, effect, and importance of its past and present transformation to
the biota and human societies, has been lacking. The PPS Arctic is composed of four scientific modules (cf. 3.2). The unifying
foci among the modules are defined by: SPACE The transitional zone between the boreal forest and the open treeless tundra; TIME
The Holocene, the present and the next 100 years; SCOPE Interdisciplinary research, monitoring change, and sustainable resource use.
The main aim is to obtain an understanding of: i) The controls on the location and pattern of the zone; ii) The effect of global
change on the location of the zone; iii) The feedback effect of the character and location of the zone on the global climate.
Implicit in these three items is consideration of the role of human societies inside and near the transition zone. This refers
both to the responses of human communities to changes in the zone and to their impact on the ecotone. The PPS Arctic cluster
provides a framework for a coordinated and integrated scientific effort to understand the dynamics of the arctic-boreal transition
zone, and ensures that results can be used in multiple contexts including informed decision making by the public and policy makers.
Specific objectives are: To develop effective techniques and carry out quantitative spatial and temporal analysis of the location
of transitional ecosystems within the circumpolar arctic-boreal transition zone; To understand ecosystem and geosystem controls
and responses in different compartments of the zone, both resilient and sensitive; To build realistic models of transition zone
dynamics; To validate the models by ground level observations, dependent on scale and land use history; To use them to implement
a program of ecosystem, geosystem, and landscape analysis, examining the effects of global and local change on species, communities,
and ecosystems; To assess the socio-economic impacts of potential future changes in the transitional zones, incorporating results
into an expert information system, which will be utilized for estimating climate change responses, sustainable ecosystem management
and landscape planning in support of policy decisions; To exchange methods on climate change monitoring, sustainable land use
strategy and science/policy issues, and use them as a tool in forecasting ecosystem changes and options for mitigation.
To realize the main aim and specific objectives PPS Arctic focuses on a set of unifying themes: terminology, location, history
of shifts, interface processes, model realism, effects of shifts, detecting shifts, and human societies and shifts. A range of
tasks will be pursued, linked to these themes: Standardize terminology; Determine current location and characteristics using
remote sensing data, aerial photographs, geographical information systems and field campaigns, as well as using local and indigenous
knowledge; Study the history of tree distribution patterns more comprehensively using multiple techniques such as tree-ring analysis,
macrofossil, stomata and pollen analyses coupled with molecular genetics; Study environmental conditions across the zone by using,
for example, meteorological, geomorphological, hydrological, and permafrost measurements; Study population dynamics, population ecology,
developmental phenology, and physiological ecology of present tundra-taiga species; Study the effect of tree cover on ecosystem ecology
including greenhouse gas fluxes and energy balance across the boreal-arctic interface (feedback effects); Study the nature and effect
of present and past disturbances such as fires, insect outbreaks and human activities on the nature and location of the zone and its
sustainable use; Study socio-economic and ecosystem management conditions across the zone, which includes assessment of human impacts
on the nature and location of the zone and consequences for human activities and strategies for sustainable development; Build-process
based models and predictions for the effects of environmental change, with a greater degree of realism than current models; Conduct
scientific manipulation experiments and analyze data from large-scale human activities such as engineering and forestry projects to
test the models.