Major research results – University of Copenhagen

Major research results

Knowledge of the end of the Ice Age in Greenland

The Greenland ice cap consists of layer upon layer of snow that has fallen and lain, year after year, eventually compressing into ice. The annual layers of snow tell us about the climate in the year the snow fell, so the ice serves as a kind of archive of the climate of the past. A study of ice cores, led by researchers from the Niels Bohr Institute at the University of Copenhagen, has revealed that circulation patterns changed within a few years at the end of the Ice Age in Greenland. This new information about the climate of the past forms an important part of the preparatory work for new models to predict the climate of the future.

Steffensen JP, Andersen KK, Bigler M, Clausen HB, Dahl-Jensen D, Fischer H, Goto-Azuma K, Hansson M, Johnsen S, Jouzel J, Masson-Delmotte V, Popp T, Rasmussen SO, Röthlisberger R, Ruth U, Stauffer B, Siggaard-Andersen ML, Svenbjörnsdottir AE, Svensson A, White JWC (2008): High-Resolution Greenland Ice Core Data Show Abrupt Climate Change Happens in Few Years. Science.

Global accountability and defining the limits to human activities

Planet Earth comprises several biophysical systems and processes that humans are only able to exploit to a certain extent without running the risk of catastrophic consequences. Nine of these systems have been identified by an international team of top researchers, which includes academics from the University of Copenhagen. For three of these systems – climate change, loss of biodiversity and the effect of the Earth's nitrogen cycle – scientists believe that the threshold values have already been exceeded.

Rockström J, Steffen W, Noone K, Persson Å, Chapin S, Lambin EF, Lenton TM, Scheffer M, Folke C, Schellnhuber J, Nykvist B, DeWit CA, Hughes T, van der Leeuw S, Rodhe H, Sörlin S, Snyder PK, Costanza R, Svedin U, Falkenmark M, Karlberg L, Corell RW, Fabry VJ, Hansen J, Liverman D, K. Richardson, Crutzen P, Foley J (2009): A Safe Operating Space for Humanity . Nature.

The first study to quantify in geographical terms the global threats to a large species-rich group of animals

In devising long-term solutions for the world's endangered animals and plants, it is not enough just to identify the threats they face. It is necessary to understand where the biggest threats will occur in the future, how that relates to the species' habitats and the interaction between multiple threats in the same area. Researchers from the Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate have produced the first global map indicating the relative importance and interaction of the main threats to a large group of animals – amphibians. The study covers climate change, the disease chytridiomycosis and changes in land use.

Hof C, Araújo MB, Jetz W, Rahbek C (2011): Additive threats from pathogens, climate and land-use change for global amphibian diversity. Nature.

Use of satellite data to identify changes in vegetation in dry areas of the world

In semi-arid areas of the world, plant growth is limited by the amount of water available and is particularly susceptible to global changes. At the same time, these ecosystems provide animal feed, pastures, energy and forestry products to large sections of society, particularly in developing countries. Using satellite studies, the Department of Geography and Geology has generated new intelligence about the development of plant productivity in semi-arid areas. Their evidence repudiates the concept that these areas are subject to a common global trend.

Fensholt R, Langanke T, Rasmussen K, Reenberg A, Prince S, Tucker C, Scholes RJ, Le QB, Bondeau A, Eastman R, Epstein H, Gaughan AE, Hellden U, Mbow C, Olsson L, Paruelo J, Schweitzer C, Seaquist J, Wessels, K (2012): Greenness in semi-arid areas across the globe 1981-2007 - an Earth Observing Satellite based analysis of trends and drivers. Remote Sensing of Environment.

Markedsplads i Maputo, MozambiqueFrom local to global sustainability in urban development and land use

Developing sustainable policies for land use is a necessity as the population grows and urbanisation accelerates. However, policies that seem sustainable in a local context are not necessarily sustainable globally. For example, calls to eat local produce pay scant attention to the negative impact this may have on farmers further away, who may in fact be able to produce the same food using less energy. A new conceptual framework for sustainability, developed by researchers from the Department of Geography and Geology in collaboration with Yale University, makes it possible to relate land use directly to underlying processes in urban areas and places the concept of sustainability in a global context.

en å der slynger sig gennem landskabet.Sustainable landscapes

The Danish landscape is a great source of ecosystem services. It is owned and managed largely by private landowners and is the source of a range of conflicts between competing interest groups. The research group focuses on the impact of forms of political governance on the landscape, the way owners manage the land and new forms of planning to develop the landscape.

Trident II misilFormulation of the theory of 'securitisation'

Securitisation in security policy is an extreme version of politicisation, which facilitates the introduction of extraordinary measures in the name of security. The theory was first formulated by Ole Wæver of the Department of Political Science, and has subsequently, and frequently, been incorporated into studies of international relations. In contrast to the classical, tangible approach to security, which focuses on the distribution of power and military capabilities, securitisation concentrates on the linguistic representation of an existing threat by clarifying aspects such as the actors, audience, cause and basis for the threat.