Nature and climate
Climate effect research is a priority topic across NINA's scientific disciplines and strategic initiatives. Achieving the climate goals requires us to see the links between climate and nature.
For several decades, NINA has been studying the effects of climate change on all types of natural environments – from high mountains to the seabed and from the Arctic to the Antarctic. Understanding the effect of climate change on nature and its resource base is fundamental to our work with future-oriented and comprehensive environmental solutions. In recent years, research on other factors related to climate change has also gained ground, and climate research is one of NINA's strategic initiatives in the period 2020 to 2024.
The consequences of climate change for nature and nature’s possible adaptations
The effects of climate change are so all-encompassing that they touch on almost all of NINA’s research activity, including activity that primarily focuses on other environmental challenges. NINA's researchers are studying the effects of climate change on species, populations and ecosystems on land, in freshwater and marine environments in Norway and other northern regions, as well as in other areas of the world.
Considerable work remains to close the significant knowledge gaps concerning the effects of climate trends and the increased frequency of extreme weather, as well as to predict future effects. NINA's researchers have expertise in the wide range of impacts on many individual species, groups of organisms, habitat types and entire ecosystems. Separating the effects of climate change from other environmental impacts, such as land use changes and pollution, is often challenging. Everything from individual species – including keystone species and rare species – to entire ecosystems are affected. The natural environment's adaptability to rapid climate change has not yet been thoroughly studied.
Nature-based win-win solutions
The most efficient and cheapest solution for storing and increasing carbon uptake is to take care of our ecosystems. A total of 43.5 teratonnes of carbon is stored in the planet's ecosystems, and scientists estimate that 80 per cent of land-based carbon is bound up in the soil – three times more than in the atmosphere. Slowing down climate change will require us to stop the destruction of nature that leads to greenhouse gas emissions – especially from the soil. Measures that preserve or increase the uptake of carbon in terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecosystems are also needed.
The main reports from both the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) conclude that nature is part of the climate solution, and that it is critical to implement measures that both reduce climate change and protect the natural environment. Proposed measures to slow down climate change do not always incorporate such protection. However, those that do both reduce or delay global warming and improve or preserve the quality and size of habitats for wild organisms are good examples of win-win solutions.
Large gaps still remain in our understanding of carbon capture and carbon storage in Norwegian and other northern ecosystems. Improving our knowledge of carbon dynamics and natural carbon stores is a necessary foundation for making decisions on land use and for measures and management strategies that take climate and nature into account – especially in cases where the proposed measures may have significant negative consequences on ecosystem integrity. NINA is actively addressing these topics, and has published a special report entitled Carbon storage in Norwegian ecosystems.
Furthermore, facilitating the adaptation of Norwegian ecosystems to climate change will be absolutely necessary with a view to managing the country's carbon budget. Increasing land area and reducing geographical barriers and habitat fragmentation raise the chances for species to maintain and adapt their distribution naturally in step with climate change.
The albedo effect is a central climate variable for Norway and northern regions in general. The potential climate benefits from solar energy reflection, as well as the cooling effect of evaporation and transpiration (evapotranspiration) from vegetation, are topics that to date have been only minimally studied compared to carbon-related climate research.
Climate policy, societal adaptation to climate change and public attitudes
Climate change is important for most policy and social areas, and NINA has biologists, social scientists and economists working on climate-related research.
Examples of NINA’s climate-related research include:
- What confidence does the public have in research-based knowledge; what attitudes do people have towards nature and the environment; and what consequences can this have for implementing climate policy? NINA also systematically measures the Norwegian population's environmental attitudes.
- Human adaptation to climate change, including changing outdoor recreation practices, harvesting activities and economic forces like tourism, grazing and aquaculture.
- Social acceptance of various climate measures, such as hydropower, wind power and forestry.
- Studies of the social, political and bureaucratic processes that track the development and research of the impacts on nature and mitigating measures.