NI: Developing Innovative Multi-proxy Analysis for Long-term environmental change in Siberia and the Russian Far East

One of the regions where current global warming is most pronounced is Siberia and the Russian Far East (SRFE). Inconveniently, this is also one of the regions with least coverage of climate records in international databases. As a consequence, it is extremely difficult to analyse and understand the spatial and temporal variations of climate change in SRFE that can provide context for past changes and current warming trajectories, and data are inadequate for syntheses that can aid evaluation of simulations of past climate-an important way to assess how well models perform at projecting the future, whether it be the impact on communities and ecosystems of forest fires or the fate of carbon currently stored in soils and peatlands.

The lack of records from SRFE partly reflects that there are few well established, multi-year international collaborations between Russian institutes and international partners. While scientists at Russian institutes have access to large datasets and field sites and have high-quality staff conducting laboratory analyses, they often have less access to the latest analytical approaches and data quality control protocols-or indeed the language fluency currently required for high-impact international publications and data syntheses. This can generate an imbalance of influence within projects and lead to one-sided and/or short-term scientific interactions that do not have long-term direction and coherence. We will address both the science and science culture issues via a network of researchers from the UK and six institutes of the Russian Academy of Sciences in SRFE. Partners in this network have already expressed a strong interest to work together and pool resources to (1) synthesise existing data, (2) learn new methods, and (3) together create new high-quality records of climate and environmental change in this and future research projects. Our network is called DIMA ("Developing Innovative Multi-proxy Analysis"), because we will use multiple new approaches to get climate information from sediment records (proxies) to reconstruct climate change. Our partnership-building and collaboration have several aims. First an extant dataset that described past vegetational change, which has not yet reached an international audience, will be analysed by the DIMA groups to create value-added features (e.g., data formulated for climate-vegetation modelling exercises) prior to publication. Second, we will collect samples to apply a method new to this region for reconstructing past temperatures from insect remains in lake sediments; this will be underpinned by UK-based training of Russian collaborators in the use of the latest laboratory and statistical procedures during a month-long visit of three colleagues from SRFE to the UK. It will involve collecting modern reference samples and generating a high-quality long temperature record from western Siberia as proof-of-concept for an expanded programme. Project leader van Hardenbroek is a specialist in this field. The two selected Russian Project Partners have considerable experience in organising field campaigns and laboratory analysis and will provide the necessary personnel, support and infrastructure. The new data and the experience gained during this project will place the DIMA team in a competitive position to apply for larger collaborative project; the highly motivated team will be geared up to generate long-term climate records across SRFE, produce a high-quality regional temperature synthesis, and develop collaborations with, for example, groups using data compilations to explore climate-vegetation model performance (co-I Edwards current collaboration). This proposal addresses the UK government’s expressed need for developing and maintaining strong science ties with key countries, including Russia and strengthening international collaborations outside Europe post-Brexit.

Grant reference
Natural Environment Research Council
Total awarded
£76,540 GBP
Start date
1 Dec 2018
3 years 5 months 29 days
End date
30 May 2022