Our Research Understanding biodiversity and ecosystem functioning under global change

Questions that drive us

Natural ecosystems worldwide are subjected to increasing intensities of human pressures, from climate change and land-use change to spread of alien species. How are these pressures affecting biodiversity and ecosystem functioning?


Land-use change is complex; in some areas land use has intensified in other areas land is being abandoned. What species, processes, and diversity are lost with the disappearing ‘middle ground’ of the traditional low-intensity agro-ecosystems?


Across variable landscapes, how do the impacts of multiple, interactive global-change drivers play out?


In a rapidly changing world, how should we prioritize conservation and management efforts to sustain the biodiversity, ecological processes, and ecosystem functioning and benefits on which we rely?


In the Between the Fjords lab we make use of the varied landscapes, climates, and ecosystems of Western Norway and beyond to address these questions. We study broad-scale patterns in biodiversity and ecosystem functioning and use field experiments to test hypotheses about causal links and processes underlying both spatial patterns and global change impacts.

Ecological responses, processes, and interactions are not constant across Earth's surface, but vary, sometimes in predictable ways, along environmental gradients. Western Norway harbours strong broad-scale gradients in temperature, precipitation, and land-use intensity. We use this variability as our ‘outdoor lab’, and replicate experiments and observational studies across bioclimatic and land-use gradients to understand how and why there is variation in the responses to, and impacts of, global-change drivers.

Being primary producers and harbouring the majority of terrestrial ecosystem biomass, plants provide food, structure, and habitat for a large fraction of the living organisms on our planet. Plants exhibit fascinating life cycles and plant-plant interactions, and they also interact with and are impacted by the climate and the environment, as well as other organisms  in the ecosystem, such as consumers, mutualists, and detritivores. Understanding these processes and interactions is the key to a predictive global change ecology.

Trait-based approaches allow us to translate the huge variety of life into similar currencies, and therefore to compare responses and effects along gradients and between different ecosystems and geographic regions. Trait-based approaches are therefore powerful tools for global-change ecology, offering opportunities to explore both the processes that drive biodiversity responses to environmental change and the processes underlying ecosystem functioning.

As we believe that students can benefit, on many levels, from being actively involved in ‘real’ research, we welcome students to our research projects and infrastructure to work on smaller projects, internships, courses, or thesis work. We offer student research internships and more formal training courses focusing on central challenges in climate change and ecosystem responses in connection with our research activities.

The field-based experimental vegetation and ecosystems research of Between the Fjords is hard work, but also a source of unique experiences in the cool (and wet) climates of the fjord landscapes of Western Norway. Our research also extends beyond this landscape; read about our international research and educational collaborations under the Beyond The Fjords pages.