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Researcher gathering water samples in a river

Aquatic Ecology

Water is the source of all life. We must take good care of that source. 

We have a lot of water on our blue planet. Just over 70 per cent of the earth's surface is covered by water, yet we are talking about a vulnerable resource. This applies in particular to fresh water, which constitutes barely three per cent of all water on Earth. 

As we intensify agriculture or degrade nature in favour of roads and houses, ecosystems in rivers, lakes and wetlands are being subjected to ever-increasing pressure. Marine ecosystems must also cope with acidification, litter, pollution, and overfishing – to name a few. 

We need to understand how all these activities affect animal and plant life in and around water, so that we can optimize and develop new solutions. Solutions that will safeguard both biodiversity and the services provided by ecosystems, as well as prevent and/or adapt to climate change. That understanding is what aquatic ecology is all about – and that applies to both freshwater and saltwater. 

This is how NIVA can contribute 

We see an ever-increasing level of conflict – both in Norway and internationally – when natural resources, such as water, are exploited in ways that threatens biodiversity. To reduce this level of conflict, we need integrated and knowledge-based management. At NIVA, we have experts in aquatic ecosystems, both freshwater and marine, who know how these ecosystems are connected and affect each other. We also have the tools to help making fast and scaled decisions to solve the challenges. 

One tool is analysis of environmental DNA, or eDNA. All living organisms leave DNA traces in their environment. By taking water and soil samples, we can map and monitor species diversity in a given area, without disturbing the organisms that we want to investigate. 

Environmental monitoring is another important tool we have for registering changes in nature over time and space. Long data series over larger geographical areas, as well as data syntheses, allow us to distinguish natural changes and normal variations from anthropogenic changes. 

Why does NIVA work with aquatic ecology? 

NIVA's starting point is that all our research and advice should contribute to solving societal and environmental challenges. What we know about freshwater-based and marine ecosystems is an important contribution to integrated water and environmental management. We also contribute to the knowledge base for green transition and efforts to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals. 

Please contact us if you want to know more about these and the other tools we offer. 

View related publications for: Aquatic ecology