The scientific scope of the Terrestrial Working Group (TWG) is broad, as it encompasses any scientific research on Arctic terrestrial (land) and freshwater environments, landscapes and biota, and their responses to, and interactions with, other components of the Earth system. The remit also covers the dynamics of the Arctic system – past, present and future – and the role of (and consequences for) human activity, both within and beyond the Arctic.
This breadth of scope is reflected in the areas of expertise covered by TWG members (there are currently 38 members from 22 countries), which range from microbial molecular ecology all the way through to large-scale earth system processes and phenomena, in both terrestrial and freshwater realms. Additionally, four early-career IASC Fellows have been integral to our activities since 2015, and we receive support from a Secretary, Galina Antonovskaya, based at the N. Laverov Federal Center for Integrated Arctic Research, in Arkhangelsk, Russian Federation. TWG members have well-developed links, or are leading contributors, to several international research organisations and programmes, such as AVA (the Arctic Vegetation Archive), CLiC (Climate and Cryosphere), IPA (the International Permafrost Association) and ITEX (the International Tundra Experiment).
Integral to the TWG is the understanding that the terrestrial and freshwater realms interact with one another and also with the atmosphere, cryosphere and marine realms; geographical boundaries are porous to fluxes of energy and materials, including organisms, so our growing emphasis on Cross-Cutting activities, involving two or more IASC Working Groups, reflects our wish to tackle ‘Grand Challenges’ that we cannot address alone. The Arctic is also an integral part of the broader Earth System, and this is reflected in our research priorities (see the final point below). Indeed during the IASC business meetings in Polar2018 we will be involved in discussions regarding 8 Cross-Cutting proposals, two of which are being led by TWG members (‘T-MOSAiC’ and ‘RATIC’).
The TWG 5-year work plan aims to deliver on key facets of IASC’s vision, and these are built around the research priorities that emerged from the ICARP III – Roadmap for the Future. We also recognise, however, that creativity is often something that emerges from the community ‘upwards’ so we are always receptive to good ideas, as long as they are broadly within scope. TWG activities are focused around five scientific themes:
• Improving knowledge at multiple spatial scales of the current state of Arctic terrestrial geosystems and ecosystems
• Determining the net effect of the terrestrial and freshwater environmental and biosphere processes that amplify or moderate climate warming
• Developing unifying concepts, fundamental theories and computer models of the interactions among species, interactions between species (including humans) and their environment, and the biology of life in extreme environments
• Estimating past changes in arctic geo- and biodiversity, measuring current change and predicting future changes
• Developing high spatial resolution models of terrestrial geosystem and ecosystem change, and other tools that can be used by arctic stakeholders for adaptation strategies and sustainable management of natural resources and ecosystem services
• Determining the role of connectivity in the functioning of arctic terrestrial systems, including connections within the arctic and the global system.
As demonstrated by the supported activities in 2017/18, researchers (mainly in association with TWG members) are tackling these themes through large-scale synthesis and scoping activities (for example the Circumpolar Arctic Flux Workshop, and AVA), and the targeted development of a programme (T-MOSAiC; ‘Terrestrial – Multidisciplinary distributed Observatories for the Study of Arctic Climate’) designed to reinforce and extend the success of the ‘MOSAiC’ project by taking a land-based perspective on human systems, geosystems and ecosystems, and their responses to sea-ice, oceanographic and climate change in the Arctic Ocean. By contrast, a wholly different approach has been taken by the ‘Frozen Ground Cartoon’ project, which has developed a series of brand-new comics about permafrost, with support both from IASC and the International Permafrost Association (IPA). The project has so far produced 22 pages of comics through an iterative process of exchanging ideas between two artists and thirteen scientists. Development and outreach work from this is ongoing.
Please get in touch with any of our working group members if you have any questions or proposals for the IASC Terrestrial Working Group. Our annual meetings, held during the Arctic Science Summit Week, are open to all, and we invite contact from interested individuals and organisations to help us identify key issues for the future, and how we may best tackle them.
For information on the next TWG meeting, see the POLAR2018 website.