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Review article - Peer-reviewed, 2022

Five decades of terrestrial and freshwater research at Ny-Ålesund, Svalbard

Pedersen, A. O.; Convey, P.; Newsham, K. K.; Mosbacher, J. B.; Fuglei, E.; Ravolainen, V; Hansen, B. B.; Jensen, T. C.; Augusti, A.; Biersma, E. M.; Cooper, E. J.; Coulson, S. J.; Gabrielsen, G. W.; Gallet, J. C.; Karsten, U.; Kristiansen, S. M.; Svenning, M. M.; Tveit, A. T.; Uchida, M.; Baneschi, I;
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For more than five decades, research has been conducted at Ny-Alesund, in Svalbard, Norway, to understand the structure and functioning of High Arctic ecosystems and the profound impacts on them of environmental change. Terrestrial, freshwater, glacial and marine ecosystems are accessible year-round from Ny-Alesund, providing unique opportunities for interdisciplinary observational and experimental studies along physical, chemical, hydrological and climatic gradients. Here, we synthesize terrestrial and freshwater research at Ny-Alesund and review current knowledge of biodiversity patterns, species population dynamics and interactions, ecosystem processes, biogeochemical cycles and anthropogenic impacts. There is now strong evidence of past and ongoing biotic changes caused by climate change, including negative effects on populations of many taxa and impacts of rain-on-snow events across multiple trophic levels. While species-level characteristics and responses are well understood for macro-organisms, major knowledge gaps exist for microbes, invertebrates and ecosystem-level processes. In order to fill current knowledge gaps, we recommend (1) maintaining monitoring efforts, while establishing a longterm ecosystem-based monitoring programme; (2) gaining a mechanistic understanding of environmental change impacts on processes and linkages in food webs; (3) identifying trophic interactions and cascades across ecosystems; and (4) integrating long-term data on microbial, invertebrate and freshwater communities, along with measurements of carbon and nutrient fluxes among soils, atmosphere, freshwaters and the marine environment. The synthesis here shows that the Ny-Alesund study system has the characteristics needed to fill these gaps in knowledge, thereby enhancing our understanding of High-Arctic ecosystems and their responses to environmental variability and change.


Biogeochemical cycles; climate change; ecosystem structure and functioning; environmental change; High Arctic; human impacts; soil

Published in

Polar Research
2022, Volume: 41, article number: 6310

    Sustainable Development Goals

    SDG15 Life on land
    SDG14 Life below water
    SDG13 Climate action

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