Biology of Environmental Change

The research area of Biology of Environmental Change brings together the expertise from plant ecophysiology and ecology, environmental ecology, and plant biotechnology, biogeochemistry, animal ecology, and environmental biology of social insects (belonging to Forests, global change and bio-economy, top-level international research area at UEF and to Environmental change and sufficiency of natural resources, one of 4 global challenges to be addressed by UEF).

Rapidly changing environment is one of the most difficult global challenges today affecting humans, plants and animals from cell to ecosystem level, particularly in the northern ecosystems. This research area focuses on global change effects on the function of boreal and arctic ecosystems, particularly on acclimation mechanisms of trees, carbon and nutrient dynamics, plant-soil interactions, and ecosystem adaptation to environmental stress. This includes greenhouse gas and other important gas dynamics, the biosphere-atmosphere feedback mechanisms and climate feedback modelling.

The state-of-the-art infrastructures at both campuses allow multidisciplinary research on acute environmental problems related to terrestrial ecosystems. We have plant exposure facilities for global environmental stresses (warming, drought, increased UV-radiation, elevated ozone levels) in natural open-field conditions. This approach is complemented with plant growth chamber facilities with adjustable temperature, light, humidity and CO2 conditions. The analytical facilities include fully equipped laboratories for plant chemistry and metabolomics, special gas flux devises, e.g. eddy covariance for CO2 and N2O, isotope ratio mass spectrometer and novel spectral imaging laboratory.

Biogeochemistry research belongs to the Nordic center of excellence (DEFROST) with a collaboration to  The Academy of Finland’s Centre of Excellence (AFCoE) in Atmospheric Science - From Molecular and Biological processes to The Global Climate.

The key research topics in 2016-2020 are:

  1. Acclimation mechanisms of plants and animals (insects in particular) to environmental change,
  2. Multitrophic communication, gas dynamics in northern ecosystems and underlying biogeochemical and microbial processes,
  3. Bioactive compounds of plants, and improved resistance and plant quality.

Bioeconomy aspects are widely addressed in these topics. The research area aims to apply AFCoE in the coming calls, focusing on northern and Arctic ecosystems.