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Bioklima Plant Sciences Foto: Marianne Mork-Olsvik
Plant Sciences
Bioklima Plant Sciences Foto: Marianne Mork-Olsvik
The expected challenges for photosynthesis-driven biological systems under the scenarios of climate change are multiple. First, in agricultural production, the main challenge is to provide, through plant breeding, varieties that can maintain yield stability over changing environments.
One consequence will be a shift to more autumn sown crops, a scenario in which might reduce erosion and pollution but also increased use of pesticides that may lead to reduced biodiversity. For forest trees, an increase in frequency of unstable temperatures and larger fluctuations in sensitive time periods when trees prepare for winter in the autumn and summer in the spring is expected to affect production in an unknown way.

In addition, the effect of a changing climate on the complex interactions between plant pathogens, pests, weeds and their natural enemies is difficult to foresee using field and classic phytotron experiments. Also, beneficial organism imported for the control of pests in greenhouses may survive in the new climate, and become potential invasive species. Another main focus of the group behind this application is the effect of climate change on biodiversity, in particular measures for maintaining biodiversity according to international obligations, e.g. the Convension on Biodiversity, the Water Framework Directive, and, recently the new Norwegian biodiversity law (NaturMangfoldloven).

Important insights can be gained by combining observational data and field experiments in the planned facilities. A vital component of our strategy to meet these challenges (plant breeding as well as in biodiversity conservation) is a better understanding of the genetic and molecular basis for plant adaptation to a changing climate. Arctic and alpine plants and soil microorganisms possess natural adaptations to such conditions and can be exploited for the improvement of crop plant tolerance. This source, as well as natural adaptation mechanisms of all photosynthetic organisms to abiotic stress conditions can be exploited for the improvement of crop plant tolerance mainly by a comprehensive analysis at the molecular level, i.e. from the genes via organelles and cells to whole plants. In addition, an understanding of the molecular mechanisms in stress tolerance in an evolutionary perspective is expected to provide tools allowing us to meet the challenges of climate change.

Bioforsk, Soil and Environment, UMB and Skog og landskap are the main national research institutes on Soil science and Carbon cycling research. These institutes have also been involved in several research activities focussing on aspects of the cold climate environment. Collaboration with NIVA, NINA, and NILU has been important in previous and ongoing projects and are important in order to link the terrestrial ecosystem with the limnological and atmospheric systems. NGI, UiO, NGU, NTNU and Norsar have a centre of excellence on Geohazards as well as an ongoing NORKLIMA project (geoextreme) which focuses on the stability of both soils and bedrock in various environments. This group is expected to benefit from the research facility outlined here due to the improved control of boundary conditions and the addition of an ecosystem approach. Plant breeding research has a long tradition at UMB (formerly the Agricultural University of Norway, NLH), which, in close collaboration with The Norwegian Institute for
Agricultural and Environmental Research (Bioforsk) are expected to be responsible for meeting the challenges of plant protection. Bioforsk, division Plant Health and Plant Protection is the main entity responsible for crop protection testing, permits and management in Norway. Commercial plant breeding in all major Norwegian crop plants is the main responsibility of Graminor A/S, and as such is expected to meet the challenges of climate change in crop production. The Norwegian Forest and Landscape Institute (Skog og landskap) is responsible nationally for forest tree breeding, and thus charged with designing strategies to meet the challenges in forest production posed by climate change.

Since appropriate facilities for testing the effect of climate change is lacking, systematic advances nationally towards defining the needed approaches to the conditions described above have been carried out to a very limited extent. Research addressing genes and response mechanisms in a changing climate is represented by strong research groups at all Norwegian Universities, including Studies of Arctic plants and soil microorganisms at UiT, Studies of mechanisms underlying biodiversity and the effects of environmental change at UiB, studies of natural adaptation mechanisms to abiotic stress at UiS, physiological and genetic adaptation mechanisms to climate change at UMB, studies of multiple stress responses and adaptations through genomics and systems biology approaches at NTNU (including extreme conditions in outer space environment), and studies of molecular mechanisms in plant development and biology as well as productivity, adaptation organelle biology in an evolutionary perspective at UiO.

International research efforts into the molecular basis for traits relevant for exploring and mitigating the challenges posed by climate change, including photoperiodic sensitivity, biotic and abiotic stress tolerance, photosynthetic capacity, adaptation to cold climate, and evolutionary aspects of photosynthetic capacity are rapidly advancing and already exploited in plant breeding efforts e.g. drought and salt stress tolerance, Nitrogen Use Efficiency (NUE) etc. All of the Norwegian research efforts listed above have close connections to leading international research efforts in all relevant areas. We belive that an integrated research program centred around a national infrastructure for climate
regulated research as proposed here will significantly increase our scientific productivity, competitiveness and standing as an international leader in the fields described above. The project will also prepare the ground for well founded strategies for Norway to meet the challenges for feed and food supply as well as for the monitoring of biodiversity. All partners with a research focus on plants, algae and microbes currently have access to facilities for plant cultivation under controlled conditions.

Other partners have laboratory facilities for specific measurements on geo-chemical, soil physical and mechanical properties. Some of these facilities are, however, old and need upgrading, or do not have good control of climatic conditions. None of the existing facilities are able to create the conditions  utlined above for a comprehensive investigation of climate changes on the integrated system. The purpose of this application is to design a national climate research infrastructure, including construction of an advanced Ecotron to be integrated in a network with existing facilities. Existing facilities and instrumentation among the partners of this pre-project proposal are summarized in the institute CV's attached to this proposal. Links to some of the international facilities with similar objectives are given below and visits to some of these will be part of the pre-project.

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