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Published: 2024-04-10

Pär Byström new director of Climate Impacts Research Centre

NEWS Since February this year, fish researcher Pär Byström has been at the helm of one of the world's leading centres for research on climate impacts in the Arctic. “A crucial role for us researchers, besides conducting high-quality research, is to inform about the future consequences of climate change,” he says.

Climate Impacts Research Centre (CIRC) is based at the Abisko Scientific Research Station, 200 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle. The centre’s main focus is the impacts of climate changes on terrestrial and aquatic life. It is run by Umeå University and has around 40 affiliated researchers.

Pär Byström's own research focuses on how climate factors, such as temperature and light conditions, along with depth conditions in the lake and access to spawning streams, affect fish populations in the mountains.

“Personally, I think the aquatic ecological research aspect is somewhat lacking at CIRC. I would like to develop that area. The fish species that can be studied there are extremely sensitive to climate change and important for ecosystem function in these aquatic environments. And if you want to engage people in research issues, especially locally, it's clear that fishing is very interesting to those living there,” he says.

Involved from the beginning

Pär Byström, originally from Kiruna, has been part of CIRC, as a researcher, since the early 2000s when the center was brand new. When former director Jan Karlsson recently moved on to become Assistant Head of the Department of Ecology and Environmental Sciences, Byström was asked to take on the 25 percent role – a mission he looks forward to.

Initially, he will be on site in Abisko at least two to three days a month to get to know the station and build relationships with those working there. A large part of the assignment is administrative, but there is also room to influence the direction of the centre.

“I want to manage while also developing and improving the centre, and hope that more researchers see the possibilities of CIRC and are motivated to research there. It's important that logistics work and that infrastructures are available to attract researchers,” says Pär Byström.

The climate effects in the Arctic are more apparent than in many other parts of the world, which makes the unique research at CIRC globally valuable.

What role does CIRC play in global climate research?

“Climate research today is a lot about the estimation of carbon dioxide and methane emissions from various ecosystems, and this is something that those working at CIRC excel at. They have a lot of knowledge about how different ecosystems contribute to climate impact, now and in the future."

The research at CIRC is also crucial for understanding how habitats in northern Sweden change.

“Our results will become increasingly important for municipalities in northern systems if they are to grow in a sustainable way. When you grow, it impacts the surrounding environment and adds another stress factor on top of climate changes,” says Pär Byström.

The effect of shorter winters

A relatively new research area at CIRC is what happens to plants in winter, under the snow cover. The changes in winter conditions is an area that Pär Byström would like to expand and complement with studies in aquatic environments. Especially how the processes are affected by shorter winters and longer summers.

“Abisko is a fantastic place for this kind of study this since there is a great variation in the snow cover within a limited geographical area. However, we can try to stimulate certain directions, but in the end, it's the individual researchers and the external grants they receive that largely determine which Arctic research is conducted and supported by CIRC's resources,” says Pär Byström.

Read more on CIRC's webpage