As you can see from the figure on the left (a word cloud made from the abstracts of my papers), my research interests are wide but they all evolve around improving our understanding on the impacts of climate change and other anthropogenic impacts on nature, from local to global, the ecological consequences of those impacts, and how we can use that knowledge to better amend the mess we are producing. My research focuses on aquatic ecosystems, both marine and freshwater, but I am also interested in terrestrial environments (after all I hold a BSc is in Forestry!), particularly in cross-ecosystem relationships (e.g., terrestrial-freshwater interface). Though challenging, I try to balance both empirical and theoretical/modelling work. Below you can find some more specific information on the research projects I am currently involved in. 

A nation-wide assessment of the risk posed by climate warming to freshwater biodiversity in Japanese river networks


Funded by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) - Grants in Aid for Scientific Research / Kiban B

Principal investigator: Jorge Garcia Molinos


Freshwater ecosystems are especially vulnerable to the effect of climate change. They insular and dendritic nature means species are more exposed and their responses more constrained to changes in their environment relative to their terrestrial or marine counterparts. On the other hand, human impacts are comparatively far greater. Water is not only essential to life but also necessary for virtually any activity you may think of, from crop irrigation to energy generation or transportation. Indeed, only 10% of the global population lives further away than 10 km from freshwater. Yet, freshwater systems host amazing biodiversity, comparable to that of the richest terrestrial systems when scaled by their extent. One of the greatest problems facing the conservation of freshwaters in the age of climate change is that we do not posses still a clear view of how and in what way climate change may impact them, particularly when considering all other human stressors already existing in these systems. A promising avenue to explore this is to exploit the complementary strengths of different analytical tools such as statistical modeling, enhanced monitoring networks, and experiments. This is what we are doing in our project. We have selected 5 river catchments spanning mainland Japan, from Hokkaido in the north to Kyushu in the south, of contrasting environmental conditions (land use, population density, catchment geology and morphology...), as case studies to assess the future impact of climate warming on river water temperature dynamics and their impact on freshwater fauna (fish, invertebrates, benthic algae). Presently, we are in the first phase of the project installing temperature monitoring networks across the catchment designed to capture as much as possible existing environmental gradients within each catchment. Data collected will then be used to predict statistically water temperatures based on air temperatures and a series of environmental covariates that function as proxies for heat exchange processes in these rivers. Output from this prediction models will then be used as input together with species occurrences to predict the current and future distribution of selected target species and get some projection of how these may change under future climate change. Lastly, we will be using field mesocosm experiments to assess how these changes may influence community dynamics and ecosystem functioning. The ultimate aim is to extrapolate these findings to the whole Japanese river network to give an updated, improved projection of the anticipated effects of climate change (warming) to freshwater ecosystems.


Assessing ecological and social impacts of coastal ecosystem tropicalization and formulating adaptation strategies


Funded by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) - Grants in Aid for Scientific Research / Kiban B

Principal investigator: Naoki Kumagai (National Institute for Environmental Studies - Tsukuba, Japan)




Climate change is rapidly reshaping the structure and composition of biological communities leading to an increase abundance and presence of warm-water species relative to cold-adapted ones (see, for example, our recent paper Burrows et al. 2019). Depending on where these changes take place, the process is named differently, e.g. tropicalization in in temperate areas because of the influx of (sub)tropical species. Counting with over 6,000 islands distributed from subtropical to subarctic waters, a system of dominant latitudinal-flowing surface currents, and high marine biodiversity, including many species that reach their northern or southern limits in these waters, the Japanese archipelago represents an ideal scenario to study such changes. We have been studying the tropicalization of temperate Japanese coastal communities with a focus on habitat forming species (corals, macroalgae) (see Kumagai et al. 2018). This project aims at, on one side, developing highly resolved regional prediction models for the changes in community composition taking into account both depth distributions and species interactions (predation, competition). On the other hand, we are interested in the consequences of these changes to the existing socioecological systems dependent on the many and valuable ecosystems services provided by both kelps and corals.



Resilience of river ecosystems under climate change-focusing on river structure, biodiversity, and ecosystem function


Funded by the Japanese Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT)

Principal investigator: Futoshi Nakamura (Research Faculty of Agriculture - Hokkaido University, Japan)


This project aims at generating better understanding on the compounded effects of climate change on river dynamics, biodiversity and ecosystem function through the alteration of climatic (temperature, precipitation) and hydrological (flow) components with a focus on extreme events (floods). It combines a large, multidisciplinary group of hydrologists, ecologists and environmental engineers from different national institutions. The ultimate goal is to generate new information and guidelines for the improved, integrated management of watersheds under present and future climate change.

Assessing climate change risks for food security and sustainability in Arctic indigenous communities


Funded by the Japan-Arctic Research Network (JArc-Net) - Grants

Principal investogator: Jorge Garcia Molinos


The animals and plants traditionally used by Arctic indigenous peoples (often described as country food) provide an invaluable asset to these communities not only in terms of their subsistence (food) but also their spiritual well being, health, maintenance of traditions, social relationships and community identity. Climate change is just one of the many challenges facing Arctic socioecological systems, but still one with the most uncertain outcomes. We are interested in understanding the linkages between climate change, country food and indigenous peoples, particularly in regard to their role in modifying the balance between westernized and traditional live styles. To do so we are conducting a one-year feasibility study, in partnership with colleagues from the North Eastern Federal University, to conduct research on several Siberian rural communities in the Sakha Republic, the largest federal republic in Russia, focusing on the socioeconomic analysis of traditional livelihoods and their dependency on both traditional and modern life styles.


Arctic Research Center, Hokkaido University

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