Siberia Blog

Kytalyk: the URPP Global Change and Biodiversity Eastern Siberia Expedition 2013

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Biodiversity is both, a response variable affected by global change drivers and a factor modifying ecosystem processes and services that are essential to human well-being. Improved capability to predict the consequences of changes in drivers will aid improved prediction of the state of the environment. The University of Zurich Research Priority Program on Global Change and Biodiversity (URPP GCB) embarks on innovative avenues in this research domain by using a latitudinal gradient approach based on interactions, feedback and scale, which will yield more reliable and robust knowledge about global change processes: Drivers affecting global change and biodiversity vary in their importance, magnitude and size among ecosystems and regions. Improved capability to predict the consequences of changes in drivers will aid improved prediction of the state of the environment, by using a latitudinal gradient approach with focus on interactions, feedbacks, and scale.


The low-Arctic tundra site is located in the Kytalyk (Rus: Кыталык) nature reserve in the Indigirka lowlands in northeast Siberia, Russia. The field site is located approximately 25 km north of Chokurdakh (Rus: Чокурдах) and around 480 km north of the Arctic Circle. Within a distance of 50km, four tundra vegetation types and the tundra-taiga boundary are occurring according to the Circumpolar Arctic Vegetation Map (CAVM). It includes the settlement of Russkoye Ustye (Rus: Ру́сское У́стье), located in the Indigirka delta, about 80 km south of the East Siberian Sea of the Arctic Ocean.


On-going research in the selected Siberian area focuses on the carbon and energy budget, and shrub encroachment, while biodiversity change is not yet systematically addressed. Assessing biodiversity, related feedbacks, and its change impact on indigenous people is highly relevant, now that the northern Siberian coast has become seasonally ice-free and will be exposed to increasing economic interests.


Change drivers of biodiversity are complex and require assessment in undisturbed environments. We test the impact of biodiversity and vegetation changes on energy fluxes between the atmosphere, vegetation, permafrost soil and human interference. We are using the following methods:

• Assessment of species diversity in the Kytalyk area as a reference for expected changes.

• Seasonal measurements of energy fluxes and phenology on two dominant vegetation types.

• Observations of plant species traits to assess trait variation within and between species.

• Modeling of shortwave radiation interaction with vegetation using a 3-dimensional radiative transfer model, parameterized and validated using field measurements.

• Upscaling of vegetation- atmosphere interactions using field and satellite observations.

• Quantifying changes in biodiversity and ecosystem functioning that will affect current livelihood of indigenous people.

• Perception of biodiversity and importance for livelihood of indigenous people using interviews.


The expedition is supported by the UZH URPP GCB program. Additional support comes from the Swiss National Science Foundation (I. Juszak, project 140631), Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships for Foreign Scholars and Artists (S. Ksenofontov), and infrastructure sharing is with VU Amsterdam (K. v. Huissteden, NL) and Wageningen University (M. Heijmans, NL).