Welcome to the first CHARTER newsletter! Our project has now developed into the concrete action stage and it is time to go more public. The CHARTER newsletter will from this on come out twice a year bringing summaries, updates and features of the research being done.
CHARTER has, like everything else, had to adjust its plans into the new reality in pandemic world. Much of the planned workshops and fieldwork had to be postponed and the project start was not what it was supposed to be. The General Assembly held in Helsinki in hybrid mode in early October was however full with optimism and good spirit: things are getting back to the track and researchers can’t wait to do their work. This first CHARTER newsletter will much concentrate on the General Assembly with interviews and greetings from the fieldwork – quite some part of that has been happening even during this year with so many complications and restrictions.
CHARTER is a four-year project, lasting to autumn 2024, and the work is now getting into full speed. While our newsletters will bring you updates, most recent project news can always be found from the website and twitter: @CharterArctic.
What is CHARTER about? Big questions…
• What are the responses of Arctic terrestrial systems to changes in the cryosphere (e.g. permafrost, snow and sea ice cover, and rain-on-snow events), biodiversity and their feedbacks and interactions?
• What are the effects of social-ecological changes for linked indigenous and local communities and traditional livelihoods sharing the affected territories, especially herding and hunting of large semi-domesticated and wild ungulate herds?
• What sort of strategies and policy pathways for locally and regionally critical livelihoods (herding, hunting and fishing) reflect, and enhance adaptation to the changing Arctic?
As all newsletter readers may not be too familiar with CHARTER, what follows is a very short backgrounder of the project. For further information, you are welcome to visit our website. CHARTER is an EU Horizon 2020 project and as such one of the EU Polar Cluster projects, working mainly in northern Europe and Northwest Russia. It has coordination point at the Arctic Centre, University of Lapland, Rovaniemi, Finland. Changes in climate and land use affect Arctic biodiversity, as well as snow cover, sea ice and permafrost. Changes in these, in turn, have other consequences and feedbacks to Arctic regional climate.
This theme is where the project title comes from: Drivers and Feedbacks of Changes in Arctic Terrestrial Biodiversity. CHARTER works closely with the people who actually live in the region such as reindeer herders, who experience the changes themselves and who have first-hand knowledge of changes. Participatory workshops and co-producing knowledge are a crucial part of the project. This is combined with findings that research is bringing, using a long timescale. With seven work packages and 21 partner institutions in nine different countries, CHARTER can combine a large amount of knowledge. This in turn serves the ambition that Arctic decision making
would better consider the actions by local communities and livelihoods. This would support gearing Arctic land management towards climate change mitigation and sustainable development.
We held our first General Assembly in Helsinki October 5-7 and it was attended by 46 people in person and 16 online. We are all hoping for a full field work season next year and the question of how to safely arrange participatory workshops, in order that local and indigenous voices which are critical to one of the centralities of the project are heard, is still an ongoing question. That said, a good deal of field work did occur this year: in Finnish Lapland, in Finnmark, Norway and several groups of researchers on the Yamal Peninsula, and also in the Nenets Autonomous Okrug, Russia. Progress and planning was also made in the development of a physical exhibit in the Arktikum Science Centre, Rovaniemi, Finland which will also have a digital component for global export. The next CHARTER General Assembly will be held in Hamburg, in Autumn, 2022.The first CHARTER publications are starting to land – find them on our website.
New Researcher Spotlights
Each newsletter we will highlight the work of some of the CHARTER early career researchers
Teresa Komu (University of Lapland, Arctic Centre). Teresa is a cultural anthropologist and during the summer of 2021 managed to conduct nearly 20 interviews with reindeer herders across Finnish Lapland, focusing on Muonio, Näkkälä and Käsivarsi reindeer herding districts, driving over two thousand kilometers, a reminder that while Finnish Lapland is a small part of the CHARTER study area, fieldwork travel distances are still significant.
Brief takeaways? Herding interests across districts may align or converge and human behaviour is diverse. Many challenges are faced according to her interviews. Common themes raised across districts were predation on reindeer, conflicting land use, diminishing lichen and pasture areas and winter conditions. Teresa’s fieldwork season is not yet completed as she plans to conduct interviews in the Kemin-Sompio reindeer herding district before the end of this year.
Angela Luisa Prendin (University of Aarhus) is a forest ecologist interested in quantitative wood anatomy to address physiological and dendroecological questions such as how do woody plants adjust their structural architecture in relation to ontogeny, environmental and climatic variability and disturbances, upscaling the results from local to landscape scales. Originally from Italy, Angela completed her PhD at the University of Padova in 2017. She is currently a Post Doc at the University of Arhus (DK) under the guidance of Signe Normand and is involved in a number of research projects including CHARTER.
Despite pandemic restrictions, Angela was able to complete a busy field season sampling ancient Juniper in Finnish Lapland (Kevo), Norrbotten, Sweden and southern Norway, as well as sampling from previous campaign specimens from Greenland thanks to INTERACT TA. Focal points of interest are dendrochronology and quantitative wood anatomy. The goal is assess the climate and environmental sensitivity of Arctic shrubs, gain insights from the past and better understand tundra vegetation responses.
She is now closely working with the Vegetation Dynamic group, on integrating remote sensing and community ecology to improve the understanding of potential future response of Artic vegetation to the ongoing climate warming and getting insight into the so called “greening” and “browning phenomena”. She is planning to extend (in terms of both time and sites) the existing network of Juniper chronologies on the Northern latitudes.
Andrew Martin (University of Oxford) recently published a paper in which he was the lead author (along with Work Package 4 leader Marc Macias-Fauria and CHARTER project leader Bruce Forbes, among others) in the journal, New Phytologist. Andrew contributes to Work Package 4, see a video interview with him here. T
he paper is titled ‘Common mechanisms explain nitrogen-dependent growth of Arctic shrubs over three decades despite heterogeneous trends and declines in soil nitrogen availability‘. Andrew’s academic background is in dendrochronology (the science that deals with the dating and study of the annual growth increments, or tree rings, in woody trees and shrubs). Next steps for Andrew in the project include extending the modelling approach in this paper further backwards in time, as well as applying to other Arctic shrub species. Andrew is also leading the creation of a pan-Arctic database of variability in Arctic biodiversity over the last 10,000 years, as a key part of CHARTER Work Package 4.
Stefaniya Kamenova (NTNU University Museum, Norway) is a molecular ecologist using techniques such as DNA metabarcoding for studying trophic interactions and the delivery of ecosystem services across a variety of study systems. She completed her PhD at the Centre d’Études Biologiques de Chizé in France, where she developed molecular and stable isotope methods for characterizing the diet of predatory insects within intensively-managed agroecosystems.
Since then her research has taken her North and she is currently a CHARTER project Post Doc, at the NTNU University Museum in Trondheim, Norway. You can watch a video interview with her here, and explaining what a trophic interaction is here. Stefaniya is working under the guidance of Dr. James Speed on reindeer diet data collected as part of the REININ project. One particular focus is the comparison of the diversity of diet and lichen uptake by reindeer between herding districts with contrasted reindeer density in Finnmark in northern Norway. Reindeer faecal pellets were collected in collaboration with reindeer herders in two districts, Beahcegielli and Fiettar, and analysed using DNA metabarcoding.