Estonian Research Projects
Project Leader: Siim Veski
The climate is projected to change, with an especially high temperature rise expected for high latitudes. Terrestrial vegetation provides resources and habitat for other members of the ecosystem and any time-lags in vegetation response to climate change can potentially lead to severe losses of biodiversity. This project will use an inter-disciplinary approach combining state-of-the-art palaeoecological proxy-based reconstructions of past vegetation composition and independently determined climate dynamics with dynamic vegetation modelling, to identify the effects of natural biological processes (migration, competition) and abiotic factors (climate, nutrient availability, disturbance) in creating time-lags in vegetation dynamics during the late- and post-glacial time in Northern Europe. The results will enable us to assess the importance of individual factors and their interactions for species response to a changing climate forming a scientifically sound basis for future predictions.
Project Leader: Rutt Hints
Estonian Tremadocian black shales are potential future resources of vanadium ‒ a critical raw material for novel battery technologies. The project aims to clarify genetic factors, which supported development of high vanadium enrichment in these black shales through combined geochemical, mineralogical and geological studies (including in situ mapping of V distribution with handheld XRF, organic petrography, XRF, ICP-MS, XRD, SEM-EDS, CHN element analysis, stable isotope MS), to define carrier phases and/or complexes of V, and to specify speciation of V in organometallic or/and mineral compounds using synchrotron-based x-ray spectroscopy and x-ray absorption spectroscopy. The pilot investigations on extraction of V from the black shales will be conducted as part of the project. The expected results will improve understanding on V extraction potential and support development of efficient valorization technologies for the metal.
Project Leader: Olle Hints
The natural sciences archives or bio- and georepositories are collections of protists, plants, fungi, animals and rocks, documenting the diversity and development (both in time and space) of the living and non-living nature of our planet. Collections constitute the foundation for the classification of living nature, which in turn constitutes the foundation for other branches of life sciences, and for broad-based environmental education as well. The natural sciences collections also have importance in attending to several practical issues, as monitoring environmental and climate change, analysing distribution of invasive species, organising nature conservation or studying mineral resources. Human knowledge of our environment is still rather very moderate, both globally and locally, even of our own Estonian nature. This results firstly from the singularly great diversity of living nature – the number of species in the world today is estimated to be tens of millions. Considering the habitats of species, their ecosystem, genes, extinct species etc, the amount of information grows progressively. Of this great amount of information, infinitesimally little is known. Secondly, the known is fragmented between databases, publications, natural sciences collections and other data mediums, that are hardly ever able to exchange information with one another. For that reason, no general infrastructure yet exists, which would enable the researcher, the politician, the teacher, anyone to ask both general and specific questions about the current state of surrounding ecosystems. In order to help solving these problems, NATARC is developing the central infrastructure of bio- and georepositories, consisting of repositories that correspond to international standards and of facilities needed for storing, research and databasing the collections. In addition to repositories NATARC is developing a public information system that is able to use most of the existing information about Estonian biodiversity in carrying out its analyses. This ability is essential in order to manage nature conservation problems, to monitor living nature, to discover changes of biota resulting from climate change, etc. In addition to digital information system it is important regularly to store in natural sciences collections either whole organisms or their DNA. Based on these, changes in biota can be analysed, focusing on changes of taxons, of genes or of chemical compounds. The greatest natural science collections in Estonia reside in the University of Tartu, in the Estonian University of Life Sciences, in the Tallinn University of Technology and in the Estonian Museum of Natural History. The conditions in collection repositories are very different in separate institutions and also differ by specific fields of study. The preservation of all the scientifically valuable collections in the long term is not granted. The partner institutions of NATARC are the University of Tartu, the Estonian University of Life Sciences, the Tallinn University of Technology, the Tallinn Univesity, the Environment Agency and the Estonian Museum of Natural History. This project directly associates with different international projects and infrastructures (e.g. GEO BON and EU BON, LifeWATCH, CETAF, GBIF).
Project Leader: Olle Hints
DiSSCo Estonia aims at building readiness of Estonian institutions holding natural history collections and data to join the pan-European ESFRI Roadmap infrastructure "Distributed System of Scientific Collections (DiSSCo)". Responsibility of TalTech is to ensure alignment of Estonian geoscience collections and databases with European standards and contribute to the development of GeoCASe (Geosciences Collections Access Service) network and data access gateway.
Project Leader: Olga Lisitsyna
The climate and land use changes are considered as one of the main threats to global ecosystems functioning today. Studies of past land-cover help to predict the responses of the ecosystems to climate and human-induced changes in the future. Pollen-based reconstructions are the most reliable sources of information on past vegetation composition and land use. The project aims to reconstruct vegetation and land use dynamics during the last millennium in a particularly sensitive, but poorly studied, area at a border between boreal and tundra biomes, in north-eastern Europe, using a novel pollen based land cover reconstruction methodology. The project will produce an unique set of region specific relative pollen productivity estimates and past vegetation and land use dynamics reconstruction of the area. Both outcomes will be essential inputs to number of regional and global scale investigations dealing with climate-vegetation-landuse interactions.
Project Leader: Leeli Amon
The postglacial climate of northern Europe and northern North America has been varying. Paleo-ecological methods clarify the environmental and vegetation response to climatic changes in the past. Ongoing research provides new insights into the impact of postglacial climate fluctuations on the past hydrological conditions across Europe. Only few studies from the other side of the Atlantic, northeastern North America, address this topic. The shifts in the growing season and phenology, known signs of climate change, are rarely used as paleo-ecological indicators. The proposed project combines multiple paleo-ecological methods (compound-specific hydrogen isotope analyses for the hydrological changes; micro-phenology of subfossil leaves for vegetation timing and seasonality patterns; sedimentary organic carbon isotopes for the carbon cycling) from both sides of the Atlantic Ocean to reveal the effects of postglacial warming episodes on the environment, hydrology and vegetation.
Project Leader: Joonas Pärn
Agricultural nitrate pollution in groundwater is one of the key factors in deteriorating the status of groundwater dependent aquatic ecosystems and in the eutrophication of the Baltic Sea. However, the sources of nitrate in groundwater subsurface have not been rigorously studied in Estonia nor its natural remediation or travel times. The proposed study aims to identify the origin of nitrate and other nutrients (phosphorus) in groundwater of the nitrate vulnerable zone (NVZ) in Pandivere Upland and the processes that modify their concentrations. For this, chemical and isotopic composition of groundwater and its constituents (nitrate, sulfate), solute transport and the groundwater age distribution will be studied. The results would help to evaluate the current and future measures tackling agricultural nitrate pollution, to maintain sustainable agricultural production in the NVZ and to enhance the status of groundwater dependent ecosystems and the Baltic Sea.
Project Leader: Rein Vaikmäe
The main objectives of this project are to determine the origin and diagenetic evolution of brines in the deepest aquifer systems of the Baltic sedimentary basin aiming to confirm the feasibility and safety of using the brines for storing CO2, energy and radioactive waste in deep structures of the basin. One task of the project is to date brines and uncover the flow dynamics of their system on a timescale of more than a million years. The second task is to study if and to what extent subglacial meltwater from alternatingly growing and melting ice sheets has modified chemical and isotopic composition and flow dynamics of the brines during the Quaternary. A wide complex of environmental isotopes, noble gases(including 81Kr and 39Ar dating tools)and groundwater chemistry data via coupled analysis of groundwater flow numerical models will be applied. The expected results will increase public perception and faster implementation of CO2 and energy storage technology in the Baltic region.