Alpine and Polar Ecology at the University of Gothenburg seeks to provide new knowledge on ecosystem functions in the Alpine and Polar context
Photo: Mats Björkman

Alpine and Polar Ecology at the University of Gothenburg (APE@GU)

Research group

Short description

Polar and Alpine regions are currently undergoing rapid changes due to climate change. Changes in vegetation patterns, such as expansion of shrubs, shift in composition and traits, and altered microbial communities are leading to changes carbon and nutrient dynamics in these ecosystems. One of the most striking change is occurring in the thawing of permafrost soils, which together with changes in ecosystem properties poses a stress for the people living in these areas and affecting their culture and livelihood (i.e. reindeer husbandry).


Alpine and Polar Ecology at the University of Gothenburg (APE@GU) seeks to provide new knowledge on ecosystem functions in the Alpine and Polar context, using long-term experiments together with mechanistic laboratory experiments. We focus on climate induced changes that spans from plant community dynamics to greenhouse gas fluxes.

Latnjajaure Field Station 

APE@GU also acts as the scientific coordinators of Latnjajaure Field Station outside Abisko where the University of Gothenburg has conducted research since 1990 as part of the International Tundra Experiment (ITEX).

Read more about International Tundra Experiment (ITEX)

APE@GU on Twitter

As a research team we use a Twitter account, @APEGU1, to publish short news and updates. Foremost, it is news about our own research that we want to reach out with quickly. But we also share other news that is relevant for us as researchers and to our work of research.
Welcome to start following us on Twitter!

Ongoing major projects

Our projects are mainly funded from FROMAS, VR, EU and BECC with large opportunities for Masters’s and Bachelor’s student projects.

Impact of Climate Warming on Arctic Biodiversity

The overall objective of this project is to provide novel insights into plant community organization, with the ultimate goal to vastly increase our understanding of climate warming effects on Arctic vegetation change. Using a multi-disciplinary approach that combines molecular phylogenetics, bioinformatics, and ecology, we will utilize a unique long-term circumpolar dataset and experimental set-up to investigate climate warming as a driver of community phylogeny across spatial and temporal scales.

Funded by: FORMAS

Project manager: Robert G. Björk

Disentangling the role of mycorrhiza for ecosystem processes

Biodiversity and the role of mycorrhiza is undoubtedly of major significance for ecosystem processes such as carbon (C) sequestration and soil nitrogen (N) and organic matter dynamics. Despite their importance, it is poorly understood how and to what extent certain features of biodiversity are linked to ecosystem processes. This project aims to improve our understanding of the coupling between plants and microbial diversity and to what extent changes in plant-soil biodiversity affect carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) dynamics in the ecosystem.

Funded by: VR

Project manager: Robert G. Björk

Permafrost thaw - decadal responses to climate change (PERMTHAW)

This project uses a natural occurring permafrost gradient to gain insights in the decadal response to climate change, following thaw and establishment of new non-permafrost ecosystems. Investigating vegetation changes, microbial changes as well as the ecosystems changes in carbon and nitrogen cycling both in the field and in laboratory conditions.

Funded by: EU

Project manager: Mats P. Björkman

Thawing permafrost soils - long-term impacts on ecosystems C and N dynamics

In the context of the ongoing climate change, temperatures in the Arctic are rising faster than elsewhere in the world, leading to a thawing of permafrost in the north. When the permafrost thaws, the door opens to a freezer full of resources for the soil's microorganisms. The big questions to be answered are now: "How accessible is the new food?", "What do the microorganisms actually choose/are able to eat?", and "Will they eat faster in the even warmer climate of the future?"

Funded by: FORMAS

Project manager: Mats P. Björkman

The sensitivity of carbon in Arctic permafrost soils to climate change (SCArPS)

Arctic permafrost soils contain huge amounts of stored carbon (C), which upon thawing releases ancient organic matter that has been stored in the frozen soil for centuries. However, the critical role that Arctic C stocks may come to play in the future of our climate system has not been adequately investigated. Particularly, there is a gap in our current knowledge as to which extent permafrost-protected C is available for microbial metabolism once the soils thaw. Therefore, will this project explore and evaluate the potential release of stored soil organic carbon (SOC) in Arctic permafrost soils, with respect to climate change.

Funded by: FORMAS

Project manager: Robert G. Björk

Past projects

Ecosystem responses to herbivory and climate change along the Swedish mountains

The overall objective of this project is to gain an increased understanding of plant-herbivore interactions in mountain ecosystems. We want to explore and evaluate the effect of exclusion of large herbivores for ecosystem functions and services, also with respect to climate change.

Funded by: FORMAS

Project manager: Robert G. Björk