Norwegian roadmap for Research Infrastructure

Climate and the environment

This area strategy encompasses complex needs for knowledge about climate and environmental changes. This includes changes at the global, regional and local level and within areas of particular importance to Norway. The strategy also covers environmental and ecosystem changes related to oceans, and changes in nature and society in polar regions. The research is relevant to management and business development and has a significant basic research component.

Research objectives

Research objectives in the areas climate and the environment are interwoven both with each other and other areas of research. Climate and environmental research in this context includes basic research on terrestrial and marine environments (including polar regions), all components of the interconnected climate system, and social sciences and humanities research related to climate change and societal, industry-related and geopolitical issues in polar regions.

The Research Council’s priorities in this area are based on the Government's Long-term Plan for Research and Higher Education 2019–2028 (Report No 4 to the Storting 2018–2019 (Norwegian content)). Research on the basic functions and condition of natural systems, how these systems are changing, and the impacts of this on nature and society provide a robust knowledge basis for policy design. The substantial changes taking place in Norway’s terrestrial, marine and polar areas make this research crucial to our ability to address climate and environmental challenges in Norway and globally. Norway is particularly committed to responsible management of terrestrial and marine nature and resources. Sustainable economic development must be based on our natural advantages and internationally-leading knowledge communities in the fields of climate, the environment, marine and polar research. Research infrastructure for natural science, social science and humanities research that supports development in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals, the Paris Agreement and conservation of biodiversity is particularly important.

The Research Council’s target areas climate, environmental, marine and polar research fall under the Portfolio Board for Climate and Polar Research; the Portfolio Board for Land-based Food, the Environment and Bioresources; and the Portfolio Board for Oceans. Research infrastructure for basic research in these fields will also be relevant to the Portfolio Board for Natural Sciences and Technologies, and more applied research will intersect with several other portfolio boards.

Climate

Climate change, together with the loss of nature, represents one of the greatest challenges the world is facing. To implement targeted, cost-effective measures that limit the harmful impacts across all sectors of society, Norway and the international community need research-based knowledge about climate change and its local, regional and global impacts.

There is a particularly pressing need to generate more knowledge about climate systems and insight into how climate change will affect nature and ecosystems, infrastructures in society and business structures. We also need a better understanding of what a low-emission society looks like, the measures necessary to achieve it, and how to develop and sustainably implement a circular economy.

Knowledge is required about how the major changes taking place in the Arctic region affect the global and regional climate, and how changes in the composition of the atmosphere, ocean, cryosphere and land-use/vegetation interact and affect the climate. We must also be able to find answers to how efficient proposed adaptation and restructuring initiatives will be in addressing climate change, and how climate and environmental considerations can be addressed simultaneously.

The environment

Environmental research encompasses both terrestrial and marine environments. Many environmental challenges concern both, but aspects specifically related to marine environments are described below. Environmental research will generate more knowledge about key environmental challenges and provide public agencies, trade and industry, and society at large with a better foundation on which to make decisions to promote a green transition. The loss of biodiversity, the spread of hazardous substances and invasive species, and water quality deterioration are pressing global challenges, and the various threats and causal connections are often closely interrelated. The biggest threats to biodiversity are changes in land use, exhaustion of natural resources, climate change, pollution and the spread of invasive species.

To safeguard biodiversity and stop the deterioration of ecosystem services, it is essential that research activities target the composition, function and dynamics of biodiversity. A number of environmental toxins are now prohibited in the industrial and the manufacturing sectors, and more stringent requirements have reduced pollution from point emissions. However, more and more chemical compounds are used in society, many of which have a negative or unknown impact on ecosystems. Diffuse emissions of environmental toxins are deemed the most important source of pollution today, and greater research efforts are needed in this area to map the sources, diffusion and isolated and combined impacts of established and new environmental toxins.

Clean oceans and coastal areas with abundant resources are a prerequisite for long-term, sustainable value creation based on marine resources. There is a constant need to generate knowledge about the structure and functioning of marine ecosystems and how they are affected by climate change, ocean acidification, plastics and other pollutants in the oceans, and other anthropogenic drivers of change. Norwegian research is to promote sustainable value creation based on marine resources, better management of ecosystems and resources in marine areas, clean oceans and safe, healthy seafood. The UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021–2030) aims to build capacity and increase knowledge in order to achieve SDG 14 ‘Life below water’.

The polar regions

An overall objective of Norwegian Polar Research [1] is for Norway to be a leading polar research nation and for polar research to reflect Norway’s special responsibility for generating knowledge for policy implementation, responsible resource management and industrial activity in the Arctic and Antarctic regions. Norway has an overall ambition to safeguard the Arctic as a peaceful and stable region based on international cooperation and respect for international law principles, and to strengthen Svalbard as a research platform [2]. Norway’s marine interests in the north and south are supported by policy, and utilisation of these resources must be sustainable and safeguard natural assets. Our advantage in terms of experience and knowledge of both the Arctic and Antarctic enables us to see global marine issues in conjunction with one another [3].

Existing research infrastructure

Research on climate and the environment is dependent on in situ measurements of climatic components, pollution, environmental toxins and biological conditions based on the use of weather stations and atmospheric chemistry observatories, and networks of observation stations, research vessels, ocean buoys, and autonomous vessels/vehicles. Norway has well-developed land-based research platforms, new icebreaker research vessels and various fixed and mobile marine observation systems. In addition, there are good logistics in place for collection of environmental, climatic and biological data in the polar regions and waters near Norway. For reliable analysis of samples, there are several laboratories that use quality-assured analytical and calibration tools for conducting environmental chemical analysis (e.g. of hazardous substances, air/water quality), biological analysis (e.g. DNA analysis) and physical analysis (e.g. of sediments and isotopes).

Norway also has research infrastructure with year-round stations in Antarctica (Troll) and Svalbard. Ny-Ålesund has a unique position as the leading Arctic environmental research station, with year-round research stations and laboratories for terrestrial, marine, cryospheric and atmospheric research. Longyearbyen also has advanced infrastructure, particularly for research on the middle and upper atmosphere. Norway also contributes internationally with important climate observatories for long-term monitoring of ocean currents and the stability of ice shelves in the Antarctic. Our two ice-going research vessels FF Kronprins Haakon (KPH) and KV Svalbard provide new research opportunities in the marginal ice zone, the Arctic Ocean and the Antarctic. The Nansen Legacy is an important research programme for this field that effectively uses KPH as a research platform.

Coupled ecosystem-circulation models are important tools in this area of research. Norway has advanced Earth systems models used by, among others, the UN Climate Panel, that couple all parts of the climate system (including oceans, atmosphere, land, biogeochemistry and biology). These are important for calculating different outcomes of future climate scenarios with increasing resolution in time and space. Such research often requires extensive storage and computational capacity. Norwegian research groups are important contributors to many internationally-coordinated databases and manage many valuable long time series. Norway contributes to the use of European satellites and in situ observations and operational services under Copernicus, the EU Earth observation programme. Norway also has several environmental and climate-related databases infrastructures of its own.

The university museums manage scientific collections, and Norway participates in the European infrastructure DiSSCo (Distributed System of Scientific Collections) through a consortium comprising four university museums.

Need for new infrastructure, upgrades and/or coordination

Norway has a special responsibility to establish and maintain historical archives and for conducting long-term observations of Norwegian terrestrial, marine and polar areas for climate and environmental monitoring. This entails continuing to conduct long-term observations of unique, long time series, renewing observation systems, maintaining data and making it accessible, and maintaining equipment for collecting and analysing paleoclimatic parameters. The establishment of integrated observation systems, new technology, remote measurement and Earth observations from satellites, aircraft and drones, particularly in Norwegian ocean and coastal areas and with possibilities of dynamic data collection and adaptive spatial resolution, provide opportunities for research of high quality and importance. This can, in turn, provide a basis for designing operational services that benefit society. The marine economy of the future and responsible management of Norwegian terrestrial, ocean and polar areas cannot be sustainable without long-term monitoring programmes and integrated observation systems.

Research infrastructure that enables us to be at the forefront of strategically important areas include research satellites, seabed observatories, well-equipped research vessels, underwater vehicles, research stations/facilities and autonomous/semi-autonomous platforms that allow advanced and/or automated measurements and sampling (multiple parameters and time series) for field activities and research cruises. National coordination and planning of research cruises and field activities provides opportunities for more efficient utilisation of research infrastructure and data sharing. Public–private sector cooperation on research and research infrastructure can also provide new opportunities to explore the atmosphere, land and oceans, from the surface to the great depths of the sea. Reference fields, laboratories, testing facilities and modelling tools for the effects of built-up infrastructure will also be instrumental going forward.

There is a major global need to develop and harmonise existing observation systems in the Arctic and Antarctic. Norway's contributions to integrated observation systems in the Antarctic with the continuation of long-term monitoring programmes and effective utilisation of Troll and KPR will be of major overall value to Norway’s strategic interests and policy in the Antarctic, and for Norway as a knowledgeable and responsible polar nation. Data that can provide a better understanding of the role of the Antarctic in the global climate system, the marine ecosystems’ basic functioning, and ice caps’ and ice shelves’ stability and contribution to rising sea levels is essential. Better coordination and joint access to different research services and international coordination of regional and global observation systems on Svalbard and the surrounding marine areas will be important Norwegian contributions to a pan-Arctic integrated observation system.

Environmental research requires continuous and nationally-coordinated development of and investment in new analytical tools, laboratories and measurement technology for e.g. detecting new environmental toxins and pollutants (such as microplastics and nanoparticles) and for understanding their biological effects. In biological and ecological research, it is important to develop new DNA techniques, improve systems for storing and safeguarding information in natural history collections and from biological samples, conduct in situ ecological experiments and establish a modern biobank for individual organisms and environmental samples. It is necessary to enhance cooperation with existing infrastructures for data analysis and management in the area of bioinformatics and ecosystem modelling from a climate perspective. Global Biodiversity Information Facilities (GBIF) are instrumental for the development of FAIR data management and established standards. Future access to clean water and water treatment systems in a changed climate requires, among other things, laboratories, electronic sensors, and instrumentation and simulation tools. It is particularly important to monitor the role of the oceans as a carbon sink and ocean acidification with associated negative impacts on ecosystems and marine resources. Open platforms and databases for climate and energy modelling and urban impacts are essential for developing smart, sustainable and carbon-neutral cities.

It is necessary to continuously develop, upgrade and validate major, linked Earth system models to maintain Norwegian advantages in polar and marine research on climate and the environment. To further develop Earth system models, experimental infrastructure for studying the effects of climate change on areas of land and how it can be related back to climate-related or anthropogenic changes in land use, in combination with in situ ecological and hydrological experiments and observations, is of great significance. International cooperation on developing joint research infrastructure, modelling tools and observation systems also adds great value to research. The long-term continuation of Norway’s membership in relevant common European infrastructures on ESFRI’s roadmap provides unique research opportunities. We should also actively contribute in areas where Norway has leading research groups and relevant research infrastructure. New technology and collection methods for social science data will also be important to understand development trends and political, democratic and societal challenges pertaining to restructuring processes.

Research on climate and the environment often requires large computing capacity for quickly performing complex calculations. This research field therefore has a great need for national storage and computation resources (HPC) and investment in e-infrastructure is a condition for state-of-the-art in this field (see separate area strategy). There is a need for increased accessibility and harmonisation of data in open, quality-assured national and international databases in accordance with recognised FAIR principles. For example, integration and harmonisation of existing climate and environmental databases, establishment of services for biodiversity data, and better facilitation of social science-related climate and environmental data could support research of benefit to society. Establishment of databases and biological and ecological databanks for marine model organisms and key commercial species are vital for maintaining Norway’s leading international position in research on and management of marine and terrestrial resources.

Interface with other areas

Research infrastructure for climate, environmental, marine and polar research contributes to and supports research on e.g. the use of biological resources (sustainable food production) and non-biological resources. Developing a sustainable marine economy and renewable energy on land requires open access to data and information from observation systems in Norwegian terrestrial, marine and coastal areas. Environmental and climate data are relevant to other disciplines such as environmentally friendly energy and health research. Basic research in natural sciences and technology will help to enhance understanding of systems and improve observations. The volume of data being collected is growing exponentially, and coordination of databases and the use of vast amounts of data from different disciplines and fields can also open up opportunities for breakthroughs in research and establishing new services. Requirements for interoperability with established regional and global networks, such as GBIF, could make a major contribution to data management in keeping with FAIR principles. Coordinating database systems across research areas will facilitate more efficient utilisation of expertise, standards and systems, but this is also contingent on adequate investment in e-infrastructure.

RESEARCH INFRASTRUCTURES RELATED TO CLIMATE AND THE ENVIRONMENT

Project

Status

Arctic ABC – Arctic Ocean ecosystems

Under establishment/in operation

COASTWATCH – the Norwegian coastal observing system of systems

Worthy of funding

COAT – Climate-Ecological Observatory for Arctic Tundra

Under establishment/in operation

EMBRC Norway – The Norwegian Node of the European Marine Biological Resource Centre

ESFRI Landmark

ICOS – Norway Integrated Carbon Observation System

ESFRI Landmark

INES – Infrastructure for Norwegian Earth System modelling

Under establishment/in operation

LoVe – Lofoten-Vesterålen cabled observatory

Under establishment/in operation 

NorArgo – A Norwegian Argo Infrastructure – a part of the European and global Argo Infrastructure

ESFRI Landmark

NorDataNet – Norwegian Scientific Data Network

Under establishment/in operation

NorEMSO – The Norwegian node for the European Multidisciplinary Seafloor and water column Observatory

ESFRI Landmark

NorSOOP – Norwegian Ships Of Opportunity Program for marine and atmospheric research

Under establishment/in operation

SeaBee – Norwegian Infrastructure for drone-based research, mapping and monitoring in the coastal zone

Under establishment/in operation

SIOS – Svalbard Integrated Artic Earth Observing System

Under establishment/in operation

Troll Observing Network

Worthy of funding

NMDC – Norwegian Marine Data Centre*

Funding period completed/in operation

NorBOL – Norwegian Barcode of Life Network*

Funding period completed/in operation

NORMAP – Norwegian Satellite Earth Observation Database for Marine and Polar Research*  

Funding period completed/in operation

NORMAR – Norwegian Marine Robotics Facility*

Funding period completed/in operation

OTHER RESEARCH INFRASTRUCTURES ON THE ROADMAP RELEVANT TO CLIMATE AND THE ENVIRONMENT

Project

Status

ECCSEL – European Carbon Dioxide Capture and Storage Laboratory Infrastructure

ESFRI Landmark

E-INFRA ved UNINETT Sigma 2 – a national e-Infrastrucure for science

Under establishment/in operation

OceanLab – Ocean Space Field Laboratory Trondheimsfjorden

Under establishment/in operation

NATIONAL GEOTEST SITES*  

Funding period completed/in operation

* Infrastructures where the project period with Research Council funding has been concluded, or was scheduled to be concluded in 2019, do not have a separate project description on the roadmap. You will instead find a reference to the infrastructure's website or the Research Council's project bank.

[1] Forskningsrådets Policy for norsk polarforskning (2014–2023)

[2] Nordområdestrategi – mellom geopolitikk og samfunnsutvikling (2017), Meld. St. 32 (2015–2016) Svalbard

[3] Meld. St. 22 (2016–2017) Hav i utenriks- og utviklingspolitikken