Research in Abisko

Abisko Scientific Research Station

Abisko Scientific Research Station is a unique, modern and comprehensive infrastructure situated about 200 km north of the Arctic Circle in Sweden (68º21’N, 18º49’E). It has international standard facilities that support a range of research from observation and monitoring to high-tech experimentation within terrestrial and freshwater environments. The surroundings are characterised by a high variability of topography, geology and climate.

The station is easily accessible by road and rail, and airports are just about 100 km away in Kiruna and Narvik. The main complex includes accommodation and self catering facilities for visiting scientists, students and conference participants, and there are laboratories, offices, workshops, lecture theatres, greenhouses, experimental gardens, storage facilities and a meteorological observatory.

Long-term datasets

As early as 1903 a research station was developed at Katterjokk, some 35 km west of Abisko. When the building burned down in 1910, a superior facility was built in Abisko, where meteorological monitoring and natural science research started in 1913. The station now holds a unique environmental record that extends 100 years back in time, as well as a vast portfolio of research activities totalling some 3,000 scientific publications.

The station’s long term records consist of many environmental variables such as climate, snow depth, ice thickness and ice duration on Torneträsk. The monitoring also includes hydrology, water chemistry, flora and fauna, as well as phenology, geomagnetism and atmospheric carbon isotope composition.

Climate change research

Ecological research at Abisko covers the birch forest, mires, mountain heaths, alpine regions, glacier forefields, lakes and rivers. All aspects of life in the close region (from microbes to tourists) are included, and the time scales used in the research reach from hundreds of millions of years ago to the upcoming future.

The impacts of climate change are more serious in the north, and Abisko Scientific Research Station is playing a leading international role in these studies. The station hosts a unique set of long-term environmental manipulation experiments that attract scientists from all over the world. These experiments seek to understand the impacts of increased carbon dioxide concentrations, UV-B radiation, soil temperature, air temperature and snow depth on ecosystems and their processes.

At the Stordalen mire, 10 km east of Abisko, discontinuous permafrost has thawed over the past 30 years. Wetland vegetation is considerably enlarged in extent, and methane emissions have also increased. Exchanges of methane and carbon dioxide between large sinks in northern soils and the atmosphere are a concern for future positive feedbacks to the climate system. Many approaches are required to understand, solve and adapt to large scale environmental problems. Traditional ecological knowledge working together with science knowledge is one approach that is being developed by the Abisko Scientific Research Station.

Last modified: 8 May 2018