Phenotyping of flora of Svalbard by vibrational spectroscopy of pollen and seeds (PollenSvalbard)

The fieldwork will cover sampling of pollen and seed of graminoids. In the follow-up greenhouse experiment Svalbard's populations will be cultivated in the controlled conditions. Biochemical composition of pollen and seeds will be determined by vibrational spectroscopy to assess reproductive strategies of arctic plant communities.

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Project type

  • arctic field grant (afg)


  • terrestrial biology

Project Keywords

  • biosphere / vegetation / plant characteristics
  • biosphere / vegetation / plant phenology
  • biosphere / vegetation / pollen

Fieldwork information

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Svalbard is an isolated archipelago characterized by an arctic climate, permafrost and scarce vegetation adapted to extreme conditions. The islands have rather rich flora in relation to its high latitude, dominated by mosses, forbs, graminoids and prostrate shrubs. The growing season in the Arctic is very short, so the anticipated rising temperatures and an extended growth season could have large consequence on the domestic species. Changes in plant genotype, phenotype and phenology are expected as response to the selection pressure of climate change. Reproduction strategies of arctic flora often include vegetative reproduction, since short and unpredictable warm seasons can impede pollination and seed germination. Due to their isolation and unique habitat, plant populations of Svalbard present a perfect experimental pool for investigation of reproduction fitness and strategies in the extreme environment. Reproductive strategy of plants, from the perspective of biochemical composition of pollen and seeds, has been mostly ignored due to missing data. Therefore, the study on plant reproduction of populations of Arctic Norway, along a latitudinal gradient from Svalbard throughout continental Norway, will provide valuable new information on climate-related plant processes. Vibrational (Infrared and Raman) spectroscopies offer chemical characterization of plant samples via identifiable spectral features. One of the major advantages of these techniques is that they can provide economical, high-throughput and an operator-independent analysis of samples as found in nature without any chemical pre-treatment. Typically, a vibrational spectrum of a plant sample contains specific signatures of the constituent biomolecules, such as water, lipids, proteins, carbohydrates, biopolymers and pigments. These chemicals are the principal structural and nutritious components of pollen and seeds, and so they are responsible for the majority of phenotypic attributes. The studies on pollen and seeds, conducted at Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU), have shown that physiological processes associated with climate conditions will affect the quality and quantity of stored lipids, carbohydrates and other chemicals. Therefore, both pollen and seeds could be used as a key indicator for ecosystem responses to climate changes. The vibrational study on the range of species and population from different locations in Norway will significantly improve comprehension of plant-environment interactions, including impact of global climate change on arctic communities. The field study on Svalbard will cover sampling of pollen and seed of graminoids in the south Isfjord area. follow up studies, conducted at NMBU, the collected seeds will be used for growth experiments in the greenhouse under controlled conditions. In the greenhouse experiment Svalbard's populations will be cultivated alongside the populations collected in the continental Norway. Outdoor collected pollen and seeds, as well as samples collected during the greenhouse experiments, will be analysed by vibrational spectroscopy. The research will provide insights into environmental fitness and stress tolerance of plant populations.

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