Project description
The aim of this project is to study and quantify how reindeer grazing and changes in snow cover influence plant growth and decomposition patterns above- and belowground. Boreal ecosystems in Scandinavia are shaped by two important and interacting factors: reindeer grazing and a persistent and protective snow cover during the cold winters. Each of these influence the soil temperatures that plants experience, which is especially important in northern ecosystems where a large proportion of plant biomass and production is situated belowground. Roots also directly influence many important ecosystem processes, as they take up water and nutrients, and transport carbon into the soil. Thus, roots play a key role in controlling soil carbon stores and greenhouse gas emissions of northern soils, which contain about 50% of all global belowground carbon. This project will assess belowground plant growth in response to a changing winter climate and reindeer grazing, and its influences on greenhouse gas emissions. The project will further advance basic knowledge on seasonal root activity.

Work tasks
The holder of this position will investigate plant community composition, seasonal plant (root) growth, decomposition of plant material, root influences on carbon cycling, and how these change with altered winter conditions and reindeer grazing regimes in boreal forests and fens. This will be done in field and mesocosm experiments.

The project will benefit from ongoing collaborations between plant and soil ecologists at Umeå University, University of Oulu, Finland, and University of Greifswald, Germany; and will use techniques from plant ecology, root ecology (including minirhizotrons), and soil biogeochemistry. Most of the experimental work will be based in boreal forests and fens in northern Finland, with the option for a research visit to Germany.

The position is financed by Umeå University. The supervisors will be Dr. Gesche Blume-Werry (PI), Professor Johan Olofsson and Dr. Maria Väisänen (University of Oulu).

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