Ecological processes and species distributions

Research areas at the NTNU University Museum:

Ecological processes and species distributions

Due to important driving forces such as land use and climate change, nature is rapidly changing. We want to understand the factors that determine the distribution of species in time and space, how environmental variation affects structures and dynamics in different populations, societies and habitats, and how we can work to preserve biological diversity and ecosystem services at all levels.



Tardigrades (water bears) are remarkable, microscopic animals that can be found in all ecosystems. They constitute an own phylum in the tree of life, and are famous for their ability to withstand extreme conditions in a dehydrated resting stage. Despite their fascinating biology, knowledge of Norwegian tardigrades is still very poor and their diversity, distribution and ecological role in Norwegian forests is unknown. This project aims to investigate tardigrade diversity associated with different types of substrates in forests in Norway, evaluate the impact of forest management on tardigrade diversity and expand the recently initiated DNA barcode library of Norwegian tardigrades. We will also use environmental barcoding of substrates to test the effectiveness of this method in documenting tardigrade diversity and distribution. The project also aims to develop a comprehensive reference collection in a Norwegian museum.

Contact persons: Professor Torbjørn Ekrem, Forsker Elisabeth Stur

Collaborators: Roberto Guidetti (Universitetet i Modena og Reggio Emilia), Łukasz Kaczmarek (Adam Mickiewicz Universitetet i Poznań), K. Ingemar Jönsson (Högskolan i Kristianstad), Terje Meier (Oslo), Iver Gjerde (NIBIO), Kristian HasselMarkus MajanevaTommy PrestøErik BoströmAina Mærk Aspaas (NTNU Vitenskapsmuseet)

Project period: 2017-2019

Funding: Norwegian Biodiversity Information Centre (Norwegian Taxonomy Initiative)

Biodiversity estimates and red-list assessments will be flawed if undiscovered taxonomic diversity remains undetected. This project aims to reveal intraspecific genetic lineages (cryptic species) in red-listed species of lichens and vascular plants by combining genomic analyses (phytogeography and species delimitation) with distribution modelling. Both observation-only and specimen-based data will be used, including relevant old archived collections.

Contact person: Associate Professor Mika Bendiksby

Collaborators: Michael D. Martin, James Speed and Vibekke Vange (NTNU University Museum), Einar Timdal and Rune Halvorsen (Natural History Museum, University of Oslo) og Håkon Holien (NORD University).

Duration: (2012-ongoing)

Funding: The Norwegian Biodiversity Information Centre (Norwegian Taxonomy Initiative) and the NTNU University Museum.

Archival plant collections are largely untapped resources that should be given more attention in light of the rapid advance of new methods for analyzing genome-scale genetic data from degraded biological tissues and new computational methods available for the analysis of vast quantities of metadata from millions of digitized herbarium records. In this project we are: (1) exploring the evolutionary history of the Fennoscandian vascular plant flora in response to the last Ice Age and recent anthropogenic climate change; (2) exploring the spatial boundaries of geographic regions harboring especially diverse and endemic flora in Fennoscandia, and (3) assessing current conservation efforts.

Contact person: Associate professor Michael Martin
Collaborators: Professor Brent Mishler (UC Berkeley), Associate professor James Speed (NTNU), Associate professor Mika Bendiksby (NTNU), Ida Mienna (NTNU)

Period: 2017-2018

Funding: Peder Sather Center for Advanced Study

CHARTER is an ambitious effort to advance the adaptive capacity of Arctic communities to climatic and biodiversity changes through state-of-the-art synthesis based on thorough data collection, analysis and modelling of Arctic change with major socio-economic implications and feedbacks.

To achieve this goal, we will combine expertise from Earth System sciences and biodiversity studies within a social-ecological system (SES) framework and with a strong participatory approach.

Strategies co-developed in CHARTER with indigenous and local communities will comprise synergies between their ambitions for adaptation actions with novel forms of land management geared towards climate change mitigation and sustainable development.

In the CHARTER project, NTNU will use eDNA metabarcoding to understand how reindeer diets vary with herd densities. We will link herbivore and carnivore diversity at broad spatial scales and will synthesise long-term Arctic biodiversity trends.

Furter information on the project, as well as a full list of partners, can be found on the project's website.

Contact person: Associate professor James D. M. Speed.

Hymenoptera is the most species rich of all insect orders in Norway. More than 5000 species have been recorded from the country, and in addition, there might be 3000 unregistered species.

About 80 % of the Hymenoptera fauna has a parasitic life style, using other invertebrates as hosts. Parasitic wasps occur in all terrestrial nature types due to the rich selection of potential hosts. The knowledge about parasitic wasps in Norway is generally very poor concerning taxonomy, distribution and ecology (Elven & Søli 2016).

The project will survey parasitic wasps in the superfamilies Proctotrupoidea, Diaprioidea and Chrysidoidea in selected nature types and areas in Norway.

Contact person: Associate professor Frode Ødegaard.


  • Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm (Sweden)
  • Finnish Museum of Natural History in Helsinki (Finland)
  • Natural History Museum in London (UK)
  • Korea National Arboretum (South-Korea)

Past projects ecological processes