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Research Areas

The department’s academic flagships are areas of strength derived from existing strong academic environments in which we conduct world-class research. They comprise the following:

Marine ecology

The department has a strong and large research and consultancy environment at international level with research groups in oceanography, metabolism, biodiversity, ecology and population dynamics of marine mammals, food networks and hazardous substances and wastes that operate on all scales from detailed process understanding to overall ecosystem understanding. Across different systems from the coastal zone to the open sea areas, from the Arctic via temperate to tropical systems, we study the structure and function of marine ecosystems and how these are affected by natural variation and human activities. We develop tools and methods for assessing the state of the marine environment and the pressures that affect it. This includes monitoring programs, experimental work, indicator development, statistical and dynamic models, habitat mapping and spatial planning. In addition, we work on how sustainable nature-based solutions can contribute to promoting carbon retention, biodiversity, etc. through the protection, restoration and sustainable use of marine ecosystems. Our research is supported by a solid infrastructure, and our strong and broad research profile is the basis of the marine topic centre under the Ministry of Environment and Food of Denmark’s national monitoring program, NOVANA.

Freshwater ecology

The department has a unique research environment at top international level in the field of freshwater ecology. Our research and consultancy on natural and affected freshwater ecosystems cover both streams, lakes, ponds and the surrounding catchments directing water to the freshwater areas - including natural and constructed wetlands. We study and measure biological and chemical processes as well as the interactions between elements such as nutrients, hazardous substances, biological structure and climate changes. We cover topics such as lake and stream restoration, nutrient dynamics, the importance of water holes, small lakes and other wetlands in the uptake and release of greenhouse gases, biodiversity and the interaction between catchment areas and freshwater areas and develop models for calculating nitrogen and phosphorus losses from fields and transport through freshwater systems to the marine environment. Our research feeds into consultancy for authorities by utilizing monitoring data, experimental data and model tools for a better understanding of systems that can help support sustainable management measures and instruments that balance environmental and societal concerns. A particular strength is our modelling expertise that allows decision support by combining ecology and hydrology in models applicable to future climate and pressure scenarios. Our research is supported by a strong infrastructure, including stream and lake-mesocosm facilities. The department is responsible for the national freshwater topic centre under the Ministry of Environment and Food of Denmark’s national monitoring program, NOVANA.

Arctic environment and ecosystems

The department has an international leading role in Arctic research and consultancy relating to the impact of climate change on Arctic nature and the society. We play a leading role in providing consultancy to the authorities of Greenland on environmental issues related to mining activities and nature conservation. We provide original research that supports both current and future consultancy tasks on critical loads and impacts of hazardous substances, oil, metals and radioactive substances in the Arctic environment. We are a domestic and international leader in the study of wildlife health and medicine, toxicological effects of pollution (including physiologically based pharmacokinetic modelling), analyses of time series (pollution), studies of zoonoses and the effects on the immune system and the relation to human health in the Arctic. The department has a central role in research in and monitoring of the effects of climate change on the Arctic ecosystems and communities, e.g. through cutting-edge research on the regulation of carbon exchange between the atmosphere and Arctic terrestrial and marine areas. We run the interdisciplinary and internationally acclaimed research station, Zackenberg, and we are a key member of the Arctic Science Partnership.

Terrestrial ecology, biodiversity and conservation biology

The department holds a strong position in international biodiversity research and is a national leader in research-based consultancy and knowledge exchange on evidence-based and cost effective conservation and management of biodiversity in Denmark. Our research focuses on how ecological framework conditions, historical conditions, natural processes and anthropogenic changes of nature and the environment affect our surrounding biodiversity. We explore the underlying ecological and geographical mechanisms and work on understanding human impact on biodiversity and ecosystems. Particular focus is on how current climate change and other global anthropogenic environmental changes affect biodiversity. We have expertise in biogeography, plant biodiversity, plant-insect interactions, pollination biology, population and vegetation ecology, phylogeny and taxonomy, nature conservation (incl. rewilding), eco-toxicology and critical loads. Our tools are experiments, field observations, GIS, remote sensing, eDNA, risk assessment, risk modelling and decision support systems.