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Nordic vegetation under the future climate

November 24-26, 2016
Ekenäs, Sweden

SLU PhD-level course, 5 academic credits



Official announcement on the SLU page


Climatic variability affects regeneration, growth, and distribution of vegetation across biomes, causing large-scale changes in ecological and socio-economic processes. Linking environmental variability at multiple temporal scales to ecological and physiological drivers of this dynamics is paramount for developing sound management strategies. Three principal lines of research in this area are (a) historical reconstructions of climate-vegetation links, done by paleo- and dendrochronological methods, (b) fine-scale analyses and modelling of weather effects on growth and regeneration, and (c) model-based predictions of global and continental scale changes in vegetation cover as a result of climate change.


Recently, major advancements have been made in merging multiple approaches and datasets in the analyses of climate-related drivers of vegetation dynamics.




By adopting a wide and multi-disciplinary approach, the course will provide an overview of the recent advancements in understanding historical, modern, and future vegetation dynamics of Northern Europe. A particular focus will be given to the potential effects of climate variability on the natural, and commercially-relevant distribution limits of species in the Northern Europe and relevant climatically-driven ecosystem processes.


The course will cover, among others, the following topics:


1. Paleochronological reconstructions and Holocene-level dynamics of species distribution limits


2. Overview of methodology to reconstruct historical dynamics of vegetation


3. Indirect effects of climate variability on vegetation dynamics: importance of natural disturbance regimes and competitive interactions


4. Case studies of fire activity across boreal and temperate regions of Northern Hemisphere


5. Reconstruction and modeling of historical climatic variability


One week course will consist of a series of presentations , supervised group discussions, excursions to locations in Southern Sweden. A pre-course assignment will include reading of the selected research papers.


Course goal


The course will provide students with a broad overview of modern approaches to reconstruct and model vegetation dynamics in the Nordic context. After the course completion students will acquire knowledge to understand and critically analyze results obtained by different methods and evaluate applicability of these methods in their own research programs.


Target group and required competence (behörighet)


The course is primarily intended for PhD students with interest in the following areas: plant ecology, paleo- and dendrochronology, quaternary ecology, forestry, vegetation modelling, boreal and temperate forest ecology, and climate change issues. The potential applicants should be active PhD students at SLU or other Swedish or European universities, and have Master degree completed in one of the above mentioned areas. 


Course format and evaluation elements


One week course will consist of a series of presentations, supervised group discussions, a project work done in mini-groups (3-4 students per group), and excursions to locations in Southern Sweden. A pre-course assignment will include reading of the selected research papers. These papers will be presented during a seminar during the course. A post-course assignment will be in the form of a short (3-5 pages) synthesis paper on the topic related to one of the course themes. A list of major texts given to students prior to the course, will provide a basis for fast and efficient leaning processes during the course itself.


Evaluation of student performance will be carried out in three ways:

(a) assessment of student activity during discussions following lectures.

(b) presentation of a report written within a mini-group during the course

(c) post-course assignment, a 3-5 page synthesis on a topic covered by the course program.


The student evaluation will be done according the following scale: U, 3, 4, 5, where "5" is the highest mark and "U" means "fail".


For successful completion of the course students should actively follow the lectures, excursions, actively participate in discussions and group work, produce a synthesis paper as a result of this work, as well as complete a post-course assignment.


Pedagogical approach


The pedagogical method used during the course will be oriented towards creating a stimulating learning environment for students with diverse background in environmental sciences. Shaping such an environment will be done through an active interactions with teachers and fellow students within the framework of lectures, seminars, group discussions and excursions. The main pedagogical approach of the course will be "learning by interactions", allowing the participants to develop their understanding of the course topics.




Due to logistical constrains, the number of students is limited to 15 participants. The course fee will be in the range of 1000 - 3000 SEK, depending on the available funding. A number of fee-waivers will be available for participants outside the Nordic region.


The course is arranged and will be given at the Southern Swedish Forest Research Centre, SLU Alnarp in cooperation with PRIFOR and NordicDENDRO networks.


Please contact Igor Drobyshev (Igor.Drobyshev@slu.se) for further information and registration.



(c) Dendrochronological Laboratory in Alnarp (DELA)