Gerhard Herndl at the Department of Functional and Evolutionary Ecology is leading the “ECOTIP” project.

Description: The Arctic marine environment is under rapid change, both in its physical and biotic conditions. The gradual loss of sea ice, increase in temperature, invasive species and compounding effects of additional ecosystem stressors are identified as likely causes of the observed turnover of Arctic species. Other issues of concern are the climatic tipping elements that are known to have affected the region in the geologic past, and that could well affect the region in the future, precipitating a regime shift of unprecedented magnitude. Predicting these changes in the Arctic ecosystem is hindered by several knowledge gaps, particularly in terms of mechanistic understanding of the coupling between drivers and responses.

At stake are two important marine ecosystem services that human societies rely on; carbon sequestration with its feedback to global climate, and fisheries production that is the economic lifeblood of many of the local societies of the Arctic. ECOTIP will map out past and present Arctic biodiversity and its response to external drivers, and the effects of expanding commercial activities in the Arctic under expected climate change. It will investigate the resistance, resilience and persistence of key ecosystem components to multiple anthropogenic stressors, and estimate their potential tipping dynamics. It will use a trait-based approach in process studies, empirical analysis and numerical models as a novel means of quantifying functional diversity to predict how different anthropogenic forcing scenarios (including climate, invasive species, pollution, exploitation) change biodiversity, productivity and ecosystem services.

ECOTIP will engage with indigenous societies and European citizens to provide recommendations for optimizing the monitoring of Arctic biodiversity and ecosystem services, identify adaptation strategies, promote international collaboration and support Europe’s endeavors to implement the Paris Agreement and Sustainable Development Goals.

Collaborators: Thomas Reinthaler (University of Vienna)

Duration: 5 years (01.01.2020 – 31.12.2024)