Estimating past changes in arctic geo- and biodiversity, measuring current change and predicting future changes
The Arctic has always been changing as a result of the geological processes that form the landmasses, through the geomorphological processes that shape landscapes to ecological processes that provide an array of important ecosystem services. It is necessary to document past processes to understand the current geography, and the diversity of landscapes and biota of the Arctic. Furthermore, the current rapid changes in many arctic landscapes and ecosystems together with their importance at local to global scales require a better predictive capacity to be deployed.
Determining the net effect of the terrestrial and freshwater environmental and biosphere’s processes that amplify or moderate climate warming
It is widely accepted that the arctic’s biosphere,cryosphere and land and water surfaces exchange energy and greenhouse gasses with the lower atmosphere in a number of feedback processes that can affect local and even global climate. Historically, these feedbacks have been dominated by processes that lead to a net cooling but there is concern that current and projected climate warming will change the balance of the feedbacks to an overall amplification of warming. Many feedbacks operate at the same time and sometimes in opposing directions: projection of their interactions is therefore difficult and determining the balance of future feedbacks is therefore essential to improving GCM projections of future climate.
Developing high spatial resolution models of terrestrial geosystems and ecosystem change, and other tools that can be used by arctic stakeholders for adaptation strategies and sustainable management of natural resources and ecosystem services
Impacts of climate change in the Arctic have global, regional and local impacts but projection of impacts at the local scale is very difficult because of methodological problems in downscaling climate. This local scale is, however, fundamental to local residents of the Arctic who need to develop strategies to mitigate adverse effects of changes in landscapes,hydrology and ecosystem services or to take advantage of new opportunities in a sustainable way. The development of high resolution models of projected climate changes and their impacts will be facilitated within a forum that involves stakeholders to ensure that the model output is relevant to the needs for producing adaptation strategies.
Developing unifying concepts, fundamental theories and computer models of the interactions among species, interactions between species and their environment, and the biology of life in extreme environments
Climate change in the Arctic is an environmental problem of such complexity and global importance that it is dominating research activities there. However, there is a danger that a dominance of activities to observe and measure impacts of climate change could eventually lead to a diminished role for “curiosity-driven science”. Without the formulation of new unifying concepts and a better understanding of the complex interactions in the biosphere and physical arctic environment, it will become difficult to understand the consequences of any future perturbations to the Arctic, particularly within a global context.
Determining the role of connectivity in the functioning of arctic terrestrial systems, including connections within the arctic and the global system
The arctic system has numerous intricate and complex connections. Ecologically there are interdependencies of individuals within populations, interdependencies of species within communities and interdependencies among different layers within food chains – and all of these interdependencies are affected by,respond to or moderate various aspects of the physical environment. In addition, there are connections through biota between local and larger scales – even the global scale. There is a particular need to better understand connectivity between in general and particularly migrations at all scales including the consequences of species movement, for example transport of disease vectors and propagules of invasive species.
Understanding the major issues within the wide disciplinary and geographical scope of the Terrestrial Working Group requires interaction with other Working Groups. The initial priority activities developed by the Terrestrial Working Group would benefit form interactions with all the Working Groups