Global change in high-latitudes: geomorphological and biogeographical perspectives

Human-induced climate change, habitat fragmentation and land use changes are global threats that are changing the atmosphere, climate, hydrology, biodiversity and earth surface processes and ultimately landscapes. High-latitudes are experiencing rapid and significant change associated with climate warming. This places global change research at the centre of the international scientific agenda.

Determination of the environmental factors controlling earth surface processes and landform patterns in cold regions is one of the central themes in periglacial geomorphology. Recently, novel statistical techniques and modelling methods have gained more attention in the field of periglacial geomorphology. Especially in the context of global change, spatial models are essential tools for assessing the impacts of changing environmental conditions on geodiversity and geomorphological processes.

13.4.2018 Researcher

Jan Hjort

14.5.2018 Researcher

Janne Alahuhta

25.2.2019 Researcher

Olli Karjalainen

12.3.2019 Researcher

Olli-Matti Kärnä

5.3.2019 Researcher

Tuija Maliniemi

  • PhD student Matthew Barbee

Main objectives

  • To investigate the impacts of climate change on the high-latitude periglacial processes (e.g. permafrost)
  • To explore the spatial and temporal changes in high-latitude biodiversity patterns
  • To evaluate the accuracy, utility and feasibility of statistically-based spatial models in examining treeline ecotone and periglacial processes
  • To produce geographic information system (GIS) -based infrastructure hazard assessment across the Arctic

Main collaborators

  • Professor Miska Luoto, Department of Geosciences and Geography, University of Helsinki, Finland
  • Professor Bernd Etzelmüller, Department of Geosciences, University of Oslo, Norway
  • Dr. Risto Virtanen, Senior Curator, Department of Biology, Botanical Museum, University of Oulu, Finland
  • Dr. Jani Heinon affiliaatio: Finnish Environment Institute, Oulu, Finland
  • Dr. Juha Aalto, Associate Professor Sebastian Westermann, Professor Vladimir E. Romanovsky, Professor (emeritus) Frederick E. Nelson

Current Projects

Past Projects


  • Karjalainen, O., Aalto, J., Luoto, M., Westermann, S., Romanovsky, V.E., Nelson, F.E., Etzelmüller, B. & J. Hjort (2019). Circumpolar permafrost maps and geohazard indices for near-future infrastructure risk assessments. Scientific Data 6: 190037.
  • Karjalainen, O., Luoto, M., Aalto, J. & J. Hjort (2019). New insights into the environmental factors controlling the ground thermal regime across the Northern Hemisphere: a comparison between permafrost and non-permafrost areas. The Cryosphere 13, 693–707.
  • Hjort, J., Karjalainen, O., Aalto, J., Westermann, S., Romanovsky, V.E., Nelson, F.E., Etzelmüller, B. & M. Luoto (2018). Degrading permafrost puts Arctic infrastructure at risk by mid-century. Nature Communications, 9: 5147.
  • Anderson, T. R., Fletcher, C. H., Barbee, M. M., Romine, B. M., Lemmo, S., & Delevaux, J. M. 2018. Modeling multiple sea level rise stresses reveals up to twice the land at risk compared to strictly passive flooding methods. Scientific Reports 8: 14484.
  • Aalto, J., Karjalainen, O., Hjort, J. & M. Luoto (2018). Statistical forecasting of current and future circum-Arctic ground temperatures and active layer thickness. Geophysical Research Letters 45, 4889–4898.
  • Bailey, J.J, Boyd, D.S., Hjort, J., Lavers, C.P. & R. Field (2017). Modelling native and alien vascular plant species richness: at which scales is geodiversity most relevant? Global Ecology and Biogeography 26, 763–776.
  • Vilmi, A., Alahuhta, J., Hjort, J., Kärnä, O.-M., Leinonen, K., Perez Rocha, M., Tolonen, K.E., Tolonen, K.T. & J. Heino (2017). Geography of global change and species richness in the North. Environmental Reviews 25, 184–192.
  • Gisnås, K., Etzelmüller, B., Lussana, C., Hjort, J., Sannel, A.B.K., Isaksen, K., Westermann, S., Kuhry, P., Christiansen, H.H., Frampton, A. & J. Åkerman (2017). Permafrost map for Norway, Sweden and Finland. Permafrost and Periglacial Processes 28, 359–378.
  • Hjort, J., Gordon, J.E., Gray, M. & M.L. Hunter Jr. (2015). Why geodiversity matters in valuing nature’s stage. Conservation Biology 29, 630–639.
  • Hjort, J., Ujanen, J., Parviainen, M., Tolgensbakk, J. & B. Etzelmüller (2014). Transferability of geomorphological distribution models: evaluation using solifluction features in subarctic and Arctic regions. Geomorphology 204, 165-176.
  • Hjort, J. (2014). Which environmental factors determine recent cryoturbation and solifluction activity in a subarctic landscape? A comparison between active and inactive features. Permafrost and Periglacial Processes 25, 136–143.
  • Hjort, J. & M. Luoto. (2013). Statistical methods for geomorphic distribution modeling. In: Shroder, J., Jr., Baas, A.C.W. (Eds.). Treatise on Geomorphology. Academic Press, San Diego, 59–73.
  • Alahuhta, J., Heino, J. & M. Luoto (2011). Climate change and the future distributions of aquatic macrophytes across boreal catchments. Journal of Biogeography 38: 383-393.
  • Alahuhta, J., Vuori, K.-M. & M. Luoto (2011). Land use, geomorphology and climate as environmental determinants of emergent aquatic macrophytes in boreal catchments.  Boreal Environment Research 16, 185–202.
  • Hjort, J. & M. Luoto (2011). Novel theoretical insights into geomorphic process-environment relationships using simulated response curves. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms 36, 363–371.
  • Hjort, J., Etzelmüller, B. & J. Tolgensbakk (2010). Effects of scale and data source in periglacial distribution modelling in a High Arctic environment, western Svalbard. Permafrost and Periglacial Processes 21, 345–354.
  • Christiansen, H.H., Etzelmüller, B., Isaksen, K., Juliussen, H., Farbrot, H., Humlum, O., Johansson, M., Ingeman-Nielsen, T., Kristensen, L., Hjort, J., Holmlund, P., Sannel, A.B.K., Sigsgaard, C., Åkerman, H.J., Foged, N., Blirka, L.H., Pernosky, M.A. & R. Ødegård (2010). The Thermal State of Permafrost in the Nordic area during IPY 2007-2009. Permafrost and Periglacial Processes 21, 156–181.
  • Luoto, M., Marmion, M. & J. Hjort (2010). Assessing the spatial uncertainty in predictive geomorphological mapping: a multi-modelling approach. Computers and Geosciences 36, 355–361.
  • Virtanen, R., Luoto, M., Rämä, T., Mikkola, K., Hjort, J., Grytnes, J.-A. & J. Birks (2010). Recent vegetation changes in the high latitude tree line ecotone are controlled by geomorphologic disturbance, productivity and diversity. Global Ecology and Biogeography 19, 810–821.