|dc.description.abstract||Ecosystems have a large capacity to adapt to environmental perturbations, but so far, most of the future projections of global change ignore the adaptation responses. The Center of Excellence (CoE) of Environmental Adaptation (ENVIRON) was launched in August 2011 for a period of almost five years to study mechanisms of environmental adaptation from molecular to global scales, and feedbacks between plant and ecosystem adaptation and climate change.
The CoE encompasses five teams from three Estonian universities: Plant physiology and biosphere-atmosphere interactions (Prof. Ülo Niinemets, Estonian University of Life Sciences), Plant signals (Dr. Hannes Kollist, University of Tartu), Plant-pathogen interactions (Prof. Erkki Truve, Tallinn Technical University), Plant ecophysiology (Dr. Anu Sõber, University of Tartu) and Landscape ecology and ecotechnology (Prof. Ülo Mander). ENVIRON currently involves altogether 55 senior staff members and 50 PhD students, and has developed excellent field and laboratory setups to gain insight into the influences of stress on plants and ecosystems, including SMEAR Estonia and FAHM, the free air humidification facility. Interdisciplinary experimental and modeling approaches have been used to scale from molecular stress response mechanisms to ecosystem adaptation by analyzing abiotic and biotic stress effects at phenotypic, physiological and molecular levels, and determining the limits of adaptation to multiple sequential and interacting stresses.
The key tasks of the ENVIRON were:
studying the molecular mechanisms of key abiotic and biotic stress sensing and downstream signaling leading to adaptation in several classical model systems in controlled conditions, e.g., Arabidopsis, Triticum and Populus;
characterizing the mechanisms of stress elicitation and synergistic and antagonistic effects of multiple stressors at ecosystem level and concomitant modifications in trace-gas emission patterns, carbon, nitrogen and water balance, carbon sequestration and vegetation capacity to alter atmospheric quality, transmissivity and cloud formation;
studying changes in the gene expression patterns and of the population genetic structure to gain insight into local adaptations associated with modifications in genotype frequency under different long-term stresses;
characterizing the role of the phylogenetic, structural and functional structure of soil microbial community (soil metagenome) in determining the adaptive capacity of soil microbial community and the effects of these key microbial community characteristics on biogeochemical cycling of carbon and nitrogen;
simulating the effects of soil-vegetation-atmosphere feedbacks at ecosystem, regional and biome scales.
As the keynote talks and poster presentations at this conference demonstrate, ENVIRON has made
major progress in all these directions and contributed to the training of a new generation of scientists
who will keep working at the most exciting question: How does the biosphere adapt to climate
change? Apart from the excellence in basic science, the consortium has importantly contributed to
development of the Estonian National Adaptation Strategy for Climate Change that will serve as a
foundation for sustainable management of natural resources of Estonia.
Hereby I welcome the participants of the final conference of ENVIRON and hope that the next three
days will bring lots of stimulating presentations and insightful discussions. It has been a pleasure and
privilege to lead ENVIRON and witness the hard work of its members that have guaranteed the success
of the consortium in addressing its research agenda. Wishing you an excellent conference! Ülo Niinemets
Head of the Centre ENVIRON||eng