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Robert Björk

Senior lecturer

Robert Björk
Senior lecturer
+46 31 786 2835

Postal Address: Box 460, 40530 Göteborg
Visiting Address: Carl Skottsbergs gata 22B , 41319 Göteborg

Department of Earth Sciences (More Information)
Box 460
405 30 Göteborg
Visiting Address: Guldhedsgatan 5a , 413 20 Göteborg

About Robert Björk

My research interests span from plant community dynamics to greenhouse gas fluxes, and particularly on the plant-soil(-snow) interactions and linkages in the rhizosphere between ecosystem structure (including plants, mycorrhizal fungi and soil microbes) and functioning. A main objective of my work is to increase our understanding of how terrestrial ecosystems (mostly tundra) will respond to, and affect, climate change.

I defended my PhD thesis ‘Snowbed Biocomplexity: a journey from community to landscape’ in May 2007. The thesis focussed on snowbed plant communities, a plant community which are particularly sensitive to Global Change and are likely to diminish in area and develop a more scattered distribution in the tundra landscape. The snowbed specialists will suffer from any lengthening of the growing season and increased airborne N deposition and this will inevitably have a substantial impact on the alpine landscape since snowbeds provide ecosystem services to the landscape by affecting biodiversity, higher trophic levels and the diversity of animal guilds. In the thesis I also highlighted the importance of links between soil biota and plant community structure in determining N turnover in tundra ecosystems, and the role of the dominant mycorrhizal associations in facilitating N capture, to plant community structure. My postdoctoral studies (2008–2009) were accomplished at Örebro Isotope Laboratory, Örebro University, with the research group for ecosystem ecology lead by Prof. Alf Ekblad. In Örebro, I started to study the production and turnover of fine roots and extrametrical mycorrhizal mycelia in forest soils and how it influenced the turnover of carbon, which today still is of interest to me.

Today I’m running several projects focusing on the Arctic ecosystems:

  • "The sensitivity of carbon in Arctic permafrost soils to climate change", financed by Formas (2012-2015). By using long-term soil incubation experiments of soils from the different soil layers from Zackenberg, Greenland, and the Ny-Ålesund, Svalbard, we examine the temperature sensitivity of SOC that is likely to be released, as carbon dioxide (CO2) or methane (CH4), to the atmosphere. Furthermore, we investigate if physical protection or chemical recalcitrance of SOC could attenuate the temperature sensitivity of the decomposability of permafrost C pool.
  • "Disentangling the role of mycorrhiza for ecosystem processes" financed by the Swedish Research Council (2015-2018). By using a plant species removal experiment we study how plant diversity is controlling total soil microbial diversity as well as soil function diversity, and thereby detect key linkages across trophic levels, and also test how plant diversity, with consecutive changes in soil microbial community, is driving C and N dynamics.
  • "The thawing permafrost - impact of climate change over decades," Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions - Individual Fellowship (2016-2018), which includes post-doc Dr. Mats P. Björkman. Using a natural permafrost thaw gradient near Abisko we investigate the changes in the carbon and nitrogen dynamics during and after thawing.
  • "Impact of Climate Warming on Arctic Biodiversity," financed by Formas (2016-2018). This is a new ITEX synthesis where we utilizing the unique long-term circumpolar ITEX dataset and experimental set-up to investigate climate warming as a driver of community phylogeny across spatial and temporal scales. The project involves PhD student Ruud Scharn.

Past projects:

  • "The impact of grazing and climate change on ecosystems in the mountains," (Financed by Formas) where we used a reindeer exclusion experiment, established in 1995 on five areas along the Swedish mountains, from Fulufjället in the south (61 ° 30'N) to Tavvavuoma in the north (68 ° 30'N), to study recent vegetation changes to climate warming, influence of herbivores on plant community composition and diversity, and long-term carbon stocks. Furthermore, we investigated the influence of herbivores on soil microbial communities and processes, and resulting greenhouse gas exchange.

My research is also linked to the Swedish Strategic Research BECC (Biodiversity and ecosystem services in a changing climate), which is a collaboration between Lund University and the University of Gothenburg with a vision of creating a world-leading interdisciplinary research program on the relationships between climate, ecosystem services and biodiversity. I am also involved in several international networks such as the International Tundra experiment (ITEX), a global network that study climate impacts on tundra ecosystems.

Full list of publications (external webpage)

I mainly teach in the courses "Field course in the subarctic – Physical Geography and Ecology" (NG0210), "Earth Sciences for Biologist" (GVR011), Earth System Science (GV0340), and "Methods and projects within environmental science" (ES1203).

Latest publications

Traditional plant functional groups explain variation in economic but not size-related traits across the tundra biome
H. J.D. Thomas, I. H. Myers-Smith, Anne Bjorkman, S. C. Elmendorf, D. Blok et al.
Global Ecology and Biogeography, Journal article 2019
Journal article

Volatile emissions from thawing permafrost soils are influenced by meltwater drainage conditions
Magnus Kramshøj, Christian N. Albers, Sarah H. Svendsen, Mats P. Björkman, Frida Lindwall et al.
Global Change Biology, Journal article 2019
Journal article

Tundra Trait Team: A database of plant traits spanning the tundra biome
Anne Bjorkman, Isla H. Myers-Smith, Sarah C. Elmendorf, Signe Normand, Haydn J.D. Thomas et al.
Global Ecology and Biogeography, Journal article 2018
Journal article

Plant functional trait change across a warming tundra biome
Anne Bjorkman, Isla H. Myers-Smith, Sarah C. Elmendorf, Signe Normand, Nadja Rüger et al.
Nature, Journal article 2018
Journal article

Patchy field sampling biases understanding of climate change impacts across the Arctic
Daniel B. Metcalfe, Thirze D.G. Hermans, Jenny Ahlstrand, Michael Becker, Martin Berggren et al.
Nature Ecology and Evolution, Journal article 2018
Journal article

Complex effects of mammalian grazing on extramatrical mycelial biomass in the Scandes forest-tundra ecotone
Tage Vowles, Frida Lindwall, Alf Ekblad, Mohammad Bahram, Brendan Furneaux et al.
Ecology and Evolution, Journal article 2018
Journal article

Contrasting impacts of reindeer grazing in two tundra grasslands
Tage Vowles, Cajsa Lovehav, Ulf Molau, Robert G. Björk
Environmental Research Letters, Journal article 2017
Journal article

Showing 51 - 60 of 72


Biocomplexity and biogeochemical cycling in terrestrial ecosystems
Robert G. Björk, Mats P. Björkman, Leif Klemedtsson
1st Workshop and planning meeting ‘Winter processes in arctic tundra ecosystems’, Longyearbyen, Svalbard, 9-11 June 2008., Poster 2008


Nitrification and Denitrification Enzyme Activity: a successful tool in Arctic and Alpine soil ecology
Robert G. Björk, Reiner Giesler, Hooshang Majdi, Ulf Molau, Lotta Lewis-Jonsson et al.
The 14th ITEX workshop, Falls Creek, Victoria, Australia, 2–6 February 2007., Poster 2007

Temporal variation in soil microbial communities and the influence of snow cover
Robert G. Björk, Mats P. Björkman, Mats X. Andersson, Leif Klemedtsson
The 14th ITEX workshop, Falls Creek, Victoria, Australia, 2–6 February 2007., Poster 2007

ITEX at Latnjajaure
Robert G. Björk, Ulf Molau
The 14th ITEX workshop, Falls Creek, Victoria, Australia, 2–6 February 2007., Poster 2007

Selection of critical key test catchments
Achim A. Beylich, Scott F. Lamoureux, Armelle Decaulne, Robert G. Björk, Fiona S. Tweed
In: Beylich AA and Warburton J, eds. Analysis of Source-to-Sink-Fluxes and Sediment Budgets in Changing High-Latitude and High-Altitude Cold Environments: SEDIFLUX Manual, First Edition. , Trondheim, Geological Survey of Norway, Chapter in book 2007
Chapter in book

Snowbed Biocomplexity: a Journey From Community to Landscape
Robert G. Björk
Göteborg, University of Gothenburg, Doctoral thesis 2007
Doctoral thesis

Showing 51 - 60 of 72

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