Ecological processes and species distributions


Tardigrades in Norwegian forests

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 facinating 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)

Environmental Barcoding of Aquatic Invertebrates (EBAI)

In EBAI we will identify species in environmental samples using short, standardized DNA fragments and compare the results with the traditional approach, where samples have been sorted and identified morphologically to species by skilled taxonomists. The DNA based approach (environmental barcoding) has the potential to revolutionize the way we assess and monitor biodiversity in freshwater ecosystems. By this approach, the identification of cryptic, diverse and taxonomically difficult organism-groups (such as many invertebrates) can be assessed and further included in monitoring programs.

The main goals of EBAI are:

  • To develop best-practice guidelines for environmental barcoding of freshwater invertebrates.
  • To test if different approaches to environmental barcoding of benthos samples give good approximations of freshwater invertebrate community compositions


More about EBAI

Contact person: Torbjørn Ekrem

Funding: Research Council of Norway (MILJØ2015), Norwegian Environment Agency

Project period: 2015 - 2018

Collaborators: NINANIVABiodiversity Institute of Ontario (University of Guelph, Canada), Zoological Reseach Museum Alexander Koenig (Bonn, Tyskland)

Invasive freshwater fishes; dispersal vectors, impacts and management (INVAFISH)

About the project: Global climate change and biological invasions, caused by either anthropogenic translocations or native invaders, are among the main factors threatening global biodiversity, ecosystem functioning and associated ecosystem services. In INVAFISH, we will describe the introductions, secondary dispersal and potential impacts of invasive freshwater fishes on native ecosystems. Expected output is cost-effective methods for monitoring and mitigation under both present and anticipated future climate conditions

Contact: Principal Investigator Anders G. Finstad

Funding: The Research Council of Norway

Duration: 2015 – 2018

Cooperation: Norwegian Institute for Nature Research, The Arctic University of Norway (UiT), Helsinki University, Umeå University, Finnish Game and Fisheries Research Institute.

Between Scylla and Charybdis – managing connectivity for freshwater fish

Research area: Ecological processes and species distributions

About the project: Anthropogenic fragmentation have particularly strong effects in freshwater ecosystems. Manmade obstacles in these systems often form absolute barriers for upstream migration, with dramatic effects on fish communities. An important dilemma is that restoration of connectivity may cause spread of invasive species. We have therefore named the project ODYSSEUS in reference to the dilemma faced by Odysseus when navigating between Scylla (a six-headed monster) and Charybdis (a whirlpool) in the narrow strait of Messina.

Contact: Principal Investigator Anders G. Finstad

Funding: The Research Council of Norway

Duration: 2017 – 2019

Cooperation: Umeå University (coordinator); Norwegian Institute for Nature Research, Luleå Technical University; Biology of Aquatic Organisms and Ecosystems Research Unit, National Museum of Natural History, Paris; University of Girona

Extended project webpage

CHASES - Consequences of land-use change and human activity on anadromous salmonids and the ecosystem services that they provide (2016-2020)

Brown trout may live the entire life in freshwater (resident trout) or occasionally migrate to sea (sea trout). In theory, individuals should migrate to sea if such behavior increases reproductive success. It has been shown, that migratory differences not only rely to resident or migratory individuals. Within a seaward migrating group of trout, large differences in distance migrated away from the river can often be found. Some stay close, while other migrates far away. In this project, we will aim to map physiologically differences between juvenile trout that become residents or migrate to sea and between short and long distance migratory sea trout. Seaward migration is a behavior that can be expected when the gain for the individual fish is higher than the cost. Consequently, one can expect that this behavior will be changed or disappear if sea conditions are so negative for sea trout that it loses reproductive potential by migrating to sea. By analyzing 30-40 years old sea trout scales from areas with and without establishments of aquaculture and compare the findings with scale materials from the last 1-5 years, it can be investigated if growth rates and the duration of marine residence has decreased after the aquaculture activities were introduced to the area. Sea trout is an important ecosystem service in many areas. The species is important for recreation and in some areas also for tourism. As a part of the project, the value of sea trout as an ecosystem service will be assessed and it will be evaluated if possible negative changes in growth, duration of seaward migration or the marine migratory behavior will decrease that value.

Phylogeography and species delimitation of red-listed species prevalent in “the Trøndelag element” of Norway

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.

Disentangling the impacts of herbivory and climate on ecological dynamics

About the project: Climate change is one of today's biggest environmental challenges. But in many parts of the world, ecosystems are changing because of variation in grazing and browsing by large herbivores. Densities of large herbivores are affected by human management and land-use and are also linked to climate. This is particularly relevant in tundra and boreal parts of the world. Since herbivory and climate can interact to affect ecosystem dynamics, it may be possible to manage large herbivores to counteract the effects of climate change. In this project we will research how climate and herbivory together affect ecological processes in northern ecosystems. We will study these processes at different scales, from individual plants to whole biomes. At the smallest scale, we will investigate how the growth of woody plants in northern ecosystems responds to climate and herbivory. We will undertake these studies at a number of boreal and tundra sites in the North Atlantic region to identify common patterns and to highlight ecosystems that are vulnerable to changes in climate or herbivore density. At a larger scale, we will investigate the impact of herbivores on plant species distributions, as well as how climate affects the interactions between plants and herbivores. This will identify plant species sensitive to changes in herbivore densities and climate. Finally, in order to identify regions that are susceptible to future environmental change due to changes in herbivore species composition, we will map patterns of herbivore diversity and community composition across global arctic and boreal biomes in terms of species richness, evolutionary relatedness and functional diversity. The overall outcomes of the DISENTANGLE project will advance our understanding of how herbivores and climate together interact to control ecological processes in northern ecosystems.

Contact: Associate professor/Researcher James Speed, NTNU University Museum

Partners and collaborators: 

PhD Katariina Vuorinen NTNU University Museum, Alison Hester, James Hutton Institute, Aberdeen UK, Anders Finstad, NTNU University Museum, Eeva Soininen, University of Tromsø, Gunnar Austrheim, NTNU University Museum, Isabel Barrio, University of Iceland, Jean-Pierre Tremblay, Université Laval, Quebec, John-Arvid Grytnes, University of Bergen, Norway.

Funding:  Research Council of Norway scheme Young Research Talents (Independent Projects FRIMEDBIO project 262064)

Duration: 2017-2020